October 22, 2020
The Specialty Family Foundation has been a generous supporter of Step Up since 2010. We interviewed the Specialty Family Foundation’s Grants Manager, Tiann Ortiz, about the homeless epidemic, the grant process, and community collaboration.
Specialty Family Foundation


Interview with Specialty Foundation’s Grants Manager Tiann Ortiz


Since 2010, The Specialty Family Foundation has been a longtime and generous supporter of Step Up. Based in Santa Monica, this medium-sized family foundation was started in 2006 by Dr. James B. and Mrs. Joan C. Peter. Jim and Joan’s children and grandchildren continue to move the mission forward while honoring their founders’ core values of faith, family, and a fearless approach to philanthropy. The Foundation invests in innovators, visionaries, and leaders who are working to address the most challenging and urgent issues that contribute to persistent poverty across Los Angeles County. Their grantmaking and giving focuses on housing, substance use treatment and intervention, and Catholic Education.  The Specialty Family Foundation has been instrumental in helping Step Up to provide permanent supportive housing and services to community members who are experiencing homelessness. Their unrestricted general operating support grants have allowed Step Up to end homelessness for hundreds of individuals over their decade long partnership! 


In exploring the Foundation’s investment partnership with Step Up, Tiann spoke of how she has been doing a lot of research into housing and homelessness. She is extremely grateful for the wealth of knowledge that has been gifted to her from Step Up, explaining that Step Up CEO Tod Lipka has always made himself available for a phone call or convening conversation. She continues, “You have always been a spotlight partner. Couldn’t have done it without Tod and Step Up. Once I invited all of our Westside PCI grantees to come and meet with UCLA substance use researchers who wanted to hear what a lot of our homeless agencies were seeing with marijuana, meth-amphetamine, opiates.”Tiann met with Step Up Life Skills Coordinator Steve Elam and Tod to gain priceless information. “Steve came to the first meeting and returned multiple times. It was great to get the lived experience perspective.  Our relationship has been very beneficial. Our county, our state, our country is suffering from a homeless epidemic. I couldn’t have gotten our board to approve housing and homelessness as an area of focus without the help of Step Up. Especially Tod. He came out for a panel with our board for different perspectives. It was perfect.”


Step Up is grateful to the Specialty Foundation for being ahead of the curve in terms of streamlining the process of grant renewals. “The foundation wants to be trust-based philanthropists, not micro-managers.  Sometimes I wonder if we ask too many or not the right questions. But we are loyal funders. We KNOW who we fund. It makes it easier to come to our annual partners and issue an RFP(Request for Proposal) and helps with the confidence of the work. For the Foundation it’s an honor to fund your critical work. You are the miracle workers who carry out the work every day to find homes for those who are chronically homeless. The feelings are mutual.”


Finally, in Los Angeles philanthropic circles, a highlight of the holiday season is the Specialty Family Foundation’s Annual Christmas Party. They have generously hosted this festive event at the Doheny Mansion on the first Wednesday of December for all their partners, other funders and grantees.  This has been a way of “collaborating through conversation, sparking thoughts and seeing what things come from it” when everyone is in the same room Tiann explains.  This year, due to COVID-19, they will be cancelling that party. Tiann shares, “Stay tuned! In lieu of a party, we will be giving back in some special way. Every single penny budgeted for that party will be going towards helping those in need.”

Visit the NEW hot-off-the-presses Specialty Family Foundation website here.

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