For the last 50 years, Casa Familiar has been a voice for underserved communities in San Diego’s South Bay region. The nonprofit improves the quality of life for South Bay families, especially for those in low-income communities in the border region.

Casa Familiar offers many services and programs to achieve those goals, from community development to social services and youth, senior and bilingual programs.

An Evolving History

Casa Familiar started as an agency focused primarily on immigration assistance and support. Since its start, it has evolved into an organization prioritizing equity in the South Bay.

“We started focusing on direct services – advocacy and community organizing,” Casa Familiar CEO, Lisa Cuestas, said. “We’ve expanded to meet the needs – that means education programs, affordable housing, arts and culture, community and economic development.”

Focused on uplifting its community members of all generations, the nonprofit also offers classes like nutrition and fitness classes –yoga, Zumba or Pilates. The goal is to create a space where community members can gather and thrive.

“We understand the value of building community, not just units,” Cuestas said. “When we thrive, it’s because all of the things that help us thrive are easily accessible.”

Going Green with San Diego Foundation

South Bay is a hub for diversity and is home to one of the busiest land-border crossings in the world. Seventy thousand vehicles cross the border each morning and return across the border at night.

Because of this, residents of San Ysidro experience more impacts of air pollution and higher asthma rates than other parts of San Diego County.

San Diego Foundation (SDF) has helped to curb these environmental impacts. In 2022, SDF granted Casa Familiar $20,000 to address those concerns in the communities they serve.

As inaugural SDF Green Jobs grant recipients, those funds have helped create paid internships in the Casa Verde workforce development program and later connected opportunity youth to green jobs and careers.

“We do recognize green infrastructure is coming. We are electrifying. All of those things are opportunities, but we have serious challenges now,” Cuestas said. “The youth understand why and how it connects to public health and affordable housing.”

Well-aligned with the SDF Strategic Plan priorities — the partnership with Casa Verde and Casa Familiar fosters equity of opportunity for young people looking to become environmental health advocates and builds resilient communities in our region for generations to come.

“They have supported Casa Verde (by) making sure that data exists now to prove what a big problem we do have in the region,” Cuestas said. “For us, that’s engaging youth in a meaningful way to really build environmental justice awareness and the opportunity that the future holds for green jobs.”

Learn more about how San Diego Foundation is growing a green workforce.