Homeless family moves into new apartment with help of outreach program

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A family who lost their home to Hurricane Sandy and were struck by cancer got a new apartment in Santa Ana Wednesday. (KABC)

Joshua and Kathleen Sayong and their three daughters -- 16-year-old Leila, 10-year-old Keila and 6-year-old Melyssa -- have spent the last two years without a home. The family of five has spent time living on the street, in hotel rooms when they can afford it, even in a minivan before it was repossessed.

They've been staying at the Red Roof Inn in Santa Ana since October with the help of family and the non-profit Global Heart Vision. Joshua works part-time at a grocery store. His wife works part-time at Disneyland.

"We just live day by day and hope for the best, and make sure we have food on the table and a roof over our heads kind of thing," said Joshua.

The Sayongs used to live in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy destroyed everything they owned. The devastation came in the midst of the youngest daughter Melyssa's fight with leukemia. The family moved west to continue her chemotherapy at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

In May, doctors gave the family good news: Melyssa was in remission. Last month during a routine checkup, doctors told the family the leukemia had relapsed. Melyssa must now return to the hospital and undergo intense chemotherapy.

"To have it again was just like the first time, it just kind of hits you in the gut," said her mother Kathleen.

It's a feeling the family knows too well. Kathleen, an ovarian cancer survivor, just found lumps in her breast. The middle child, Keila, is autistic.

But Wednesday marked a big change and a fresh start for the family. The Sayongs opened the door to their brand new 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in Anaheim.

"We haven't really been able to smile in a long time, a lot of different things going on and to see them smile, just means the world to me," said Kathleen.

The new home is a gift from the Santa Ana police department's HEART program. It stands for Homeless Evaluation Assessment Response Team.

A team of officers works with the county, non-profits and other organizations to help homeless families get into a home and back on their feet. "It's a restoration of hope for everyone that's involved and everyone infectiously wants to get involved," said Corporal Michael Kuplast.

Local non-profit Serving People in Need (SPIN) helped fund getting the family in the home. This is the 135th family the HEART program has helped.

While the girls picked out their new rooms, Joshua and Kathleen said they could only begin to express their gratitude, especially in this season of Thanksgiving.

"It seems like no one else cared," said Kathleen. "You're heroes in so many ways."

The family continues to work their way towards a new beginning, but is still in need of financial assistance. If you are interested, you can contribute at GoFundMe.com

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homelessSanta Ana
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