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City, Police Services and nonprofits partner to help homeless family get a new lease on life

The Winston family with Quality of Life Deputy Dana

This is a story about hardship, homelessness, compassion, partnership and progress. It’s about Tamara and Cory Winston and their three young children – Piper, 2; Blaze, 4; and Zane, 9 – who spent nearly two years living out of their SUV before finding a roof over their heads thanks to the efforts of Police Services, the City and our partnerships with nonprofit organizations.

This is a family who strived to live the American dream. Tamara grew up here in Mission Viejo with her family and affluent father who worked for the Mission Viejo Company. She was a licensed insurance agent when she met Cory a decade ago. An astute college student on the Dean’s list, Cory was working toward obtaining his bachelor’s degree in psychology.  It was a match made in heaven and their future was bright. After giving birth to their last child Piper, Tamara suffered medical complications and was unable to work. Slowly, they watched their savings and 401K dry up as they struggled to live paycheck to paycheck. 

Tamara and the kids headed to Utah in search of less costly place to live, while Cory stayed behind, quit school and worked odd jobs to support his family. Tamara eventually moved back to California and the family was able to live with Cory’s mother for a short time. Last Christmas while staying in a hotel on a temporary voucher, Tamara and Cory had Santa Claus deliver a few gifts to keep the kids’ spirits alive. Since then, they’ve been living in their SUV in Mission Viejo while Cory works construction jobs to put food in their mouths.  Everything changed for the Winston family last month when the City’s Quality of Life Deputy Dana Chaney and the nonprofit Mercy House stepped in to help. Mission Viejo contracts with Mercy House for assistance with homeless outreach and partners with Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) to help connect people with housing.

The Winstons qualified for emergency housing and moved into a temporary home a few weeks ago. (FAM) will continue to work with them in the hopes of securing permanent housing.   When word of the family’s plight spread, City of Mission Viejo employees and the Mission Viejo Police Foundation opened their hearts and wallets – donating clothing, bedding and household goods for the family. Tamara and Cory say they are forever grateful for those who’ve helped them and their children live a better quality of life.

If you are struggling to make ends meet, there are resources that can help. See this Community Resource Guide of organizations that can help.


Submitted by David Selecky on Thu, 04/04/2019 - 6:06 pm


Are they still needing assistance? AYSO Region 84 would like to help as well. Are they living locally? Would the kids like to play soccer for free? We can even provide the clothing and equipment like soccer cleats, soccer balls, etc. Please contact me if we can help.

Submitted by Bridget DiRico on Thu, 04/04/2019 - 6:46 pm


We would like to help this family! Where can we send a gift card? Thank you, City of Mission Viejo! We love living here and love what a giving, loving community we have!

Submitted by Teresa Razo on Fri, 04/05/2019 - 1:11 am


Would love to support! We are always grateful to share our blessings... who can we contact to see if we can help with school, food or any current need.

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