Update: How you can help struggling family
Deborah Walker, center, shares a home with her son, David, 16, and mother, Katherine Woodruff, 82.
October 6th, 2011
03:34 PM ET

Update: How you can help struggling family

Editor's note: After this item first appeared in late August, many readers offered to assist the Walker family in various ways. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego is now connecting the family with sources of assistance. If you would like to contribute, please send checks, gift cards (Albertsons, Target, Walmart) or goods to: Case Management Services, Catholic Charities of San Diego, 349 Cedar St. Room 101, San Diego, CA 92101; include Deborah Walker's name in a note or on the check's memo line. Secure online donations also may be made through the Catholic Charities website. Clothing donations: David wears 38/34 pants, XL shirts and size 13 shoes.

[Original post, published August 24, 2011] Widowed mother Deborah Anne Walker was struggling financially when the economy turned sour in the fall of 2008. She is disabled and couldn't afford school clothes for her 13-year-old son, so she ended up having him wear her jeans, and other children teased him.

"You just have to keep thinking, 'OK, what is the one thing we have left that we can live without the most?' " she told CNN in September 2008. " ... I don't understand why, every time there is a crisis, it's the poor, disabled, children and seniors who end up having to pay for it."

Some kindhearted CNN.com users and members of her church came through with help for the family that fall, but the underlying economic conditions didn't improve, and Walker's situation may be even more dire now than it was then.

When CNN asked Walker, 50, of Vista, California, for an update, here's what she wrote:

There have been a number of changes since last we spoke. My elderly mother (Katherine Woodruff, 82) is living with us now. She had a fall, and a mild heart attack, and her doctor said she couldn't live upstairs anymore. So, I brought her home with me.

David has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism. He is in a day treatment facility [Discovery Hills and Valley], where they get their academic (lessons) and therapy. This change has helped him very much.

[The San Diego County school district operates Discovery Hills and Valley, where special-needs students attend classes and receive medical care and prescriptions at no cost to the family. A bus provides door-to-door service.]

We still struggle to make it through each month. We have had a couple rent increases and no cost-of-living increase. It's been hard.

I have to take my mother to all of her appointments, bathe her, feed her, administer her meds, and the list goes on. ... I had to quit my part-time job [as a home health aide] because I needed to be home more because of my mother and my son's conditions. David has grown A LOT, and doesn't have many clothes that fit him.

[David, now 16, is nearly 6 feet tall and 245 pounds, Walker said in an interview.]

I'm doing much better emotionally. I have a couple of excellent doctors, and am not as depressed as I was.

It's still a BIG struggle financially. Right now, we can't drive the car because the tags are expired, and I can't afford the registration fees. We barely make it through the month without running out of groceries. We have had to cut out anything we didn't HAVE to have, like the cell phones. I don't know how I'm going to find the money to get the tags renewed, and I am the only transportation for the three of us. Between my medical problems and David's and my mother's, we have quite a few doctor appointments every month, and no way to get there!

[Her mother put off an eye appointment this month, hoping to reschedule when the family has transportation again, Walker said. Walker uses an old baby stroller to carry groceries home from a store in her neighborhood. "People look at me funny, walking down the street with an empty stroller, but you gotta do what you gotta do," she said.]

I think it's hardest on David. He's a teenager, and needs things, like clothes that fit, to keep from getting teased at school. He's depressed lately because we can never go out to Jack in the Box, or the movies, or even just to 7-11 for a Slurpee, because there just isn't any money.

[The family subsists on Walker's Supplemental Security Income (disability) check and Woodruff's Social Security.]

So ... I am kept very busy taking care of David and my mother. I still have faith in God, and hope for things to improve, even if only slightly. Somehow, I'm holding this family together.

Thanks for taking an interest. Most of the time, it seems like nobody cares about us. I get down, but I always drag myself back up. Quitters never win, and winners never quit!

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Filed under: California • Economy • Jobs • Most Intriguing People • U.S.
soundoff (981 Responses)
  1. spoo

    those willing to help should call their representatives and ask for an increase in taxes for the wealthy and corporations. Oh, but exxon had a bad year, they only had 10 billion dollars in profits, we should wait for a better year then....

    August 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mr. Door

    If I wasn't recently unemployed myself I would send them at least $500 just to get a firm start on things. I know that kid has aspergers and all but I believe if the kid finds something he is passionate about he will surely exceed in that craft, no matter how autistic he is. His mom should be a little tougher on him.

    Look how Temple Grandin turned out.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Keri Anne

    I hope things get better for this family. but I pay so much money in taxes. These taxes support the services she does recieve, that I cant even ponder the thought of sending a donation. Not unless I can claim them as dependants. Mean Cruel Ya I know but its how I feel.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bobby

    A dime a dozen. US taxpayers are providing this woman with all kinds of support. Looks to me like the folks eat pretty well. It can never be enough for those living on the government dole. Once poor and needy, always poor and needy. Their problems are always so much worse than others. Reach out to the church again. Churches in this country make millions of tax free dollars. Continued ongoing support like this is one reason we are broke and my obligation to the Federal Government makes up 47% of my income.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Megan T

    I hope this family has a chance to see this and knows some of us are rooting for them. Some of you jerks on here wouldn't know hard times if they hit you in the face and flopped around. People like this family are some of my favorite people.....they don't judge and they would give you the shirt off their back if they could.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dana Ayers

    I just sent an email to the author asking if the family is open to accepting donations and if so, where they can be sent. If I get a response, I will post here. Obviously I will not post their address, but maybe there is a drop off point where people can send things?

    August 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Iamnotfooled

    Perhaps people who want to help can contact the school that her son goes to. You can click on link and address is on the top of their web page.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pat

    Not doubting this family has troubles but this being some down and out family because of the ecomomy is a reach. This family is getting three checks from the government is my million dollar bet. Disability check 1300 a month- SS check for her mom 1000 and last the kid get 1340 a month because his dad passed away. I have family experience in all three. That's 3300 a month. Yearly income free and clear of taxes over 30k. Then the once a year redistribution of wealth check called a tax return where people who make 30k a year get all their tax money back plus other taxpayer money (EIC) which they didn't actually earn someone else did. I've seen that check to be up to 6k a year. But then that it was earned by the rich who made 80k a year and worked twice as much. Perspective on who is poor and who is rich has been lost. I feel for the emotional struggle this family has had but don't try to put it like the poor and old are taking it for the rest of us.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Pat, I doubt your figures are even close.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Pat – you are a voice of reason in a wilderness of misplaced sympathy. It's hard not to feel for this family's situation, but someone being depressed because they can't go get a Slurpee or go to the movies has really placed a lense on what people now consider necessities. I too work inside of the government programs and your assessment of what they're getting from the Government is spot on. Things are only going to get more challenging, and people need to get a better grip on what they really need to be happy.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patty

      Well, Pat – the disabled, poor and elderly ARE the ones "taking it" for the rest of us. And I have to agree with Scott. Your numbers are probably way off.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarmenSo

      Pat you don't know what this family is getting and how much they are getting. You are making assumptions and have no proof to back it up.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • DBLA

      You nailed this on the head Pat. As she said in the article "I don't understand why, every time there is a crisis, it's the poor, disabled, children and seniors who end up having to pay for it." I'm a little confused... how did the poor have to pay for it???? The poor don't pay for anything; they're poor!!!! She should be saying "I'm so thankful that I live in America where we can get free education, free medical for my mom, and free paychecks every month- in most countries we would just die."

      August 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Megan

      Social Security and SSDI amounts vary - when I worked as a caseworker in Texas, it wasn't unusual to see people receiving checks for $600/month or less. It's hard to survive on that.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • havaheart

      Do you know these people? do you see their bank accounts? Where do you get that her mom is getting $1000.00 a month?? I didn't read that anywhere. My mom gets SS too,but not $1000 she gets $790. The amount you get is figured from what you made during your working years. My mom draws on my Dad, who passed away when I was 6. She struggled for years to raise my brother, sister, and I getting checks for us too since my father had passed, I think it was about $200 a kid back then and maybe some snot like you would have thought why they are rolling in dough. NOT we never had much, one pair of shoes a year and if we were lucky maybe a new pair at Easter. We all do what we have to do, but please don't try to lesson her story by falsely calculating her income that you have no real clue about. That is so petty and negative.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • He's Got The Right Idea

      Thank you Pat for the comment.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose

      and how do you know all of this? you're just conjecturing. you're attacking this family without any proof. kinda low

      August 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • ryan

      Pat- Where are you getting these figures?

      August 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • He's Got The Right Idea

      pats numbers may be off but your missing the point of his comment

      August 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ginamero

      Pat, Jeff, DBLA – you are all so right. In any other country they would be dead or living in a slum...more, more, more. This government is giving to 3 people who will NEVER contribute – only take – and they are complaining. I'm so lucky to be living my life and it's not the life of Paris Hilton – yet I don't think she owes me money. We are on water restrictions here in the South and I have my kids plug the bath to catch the water from their timed showers so I can bale it out and put it on my plants and water the garden...you would think I was rich if you knew what I had in the bank and what we make...yet I make sacrifices everyday so that I can have that money....why do those who have made the right choices always have to suffer for those who don't by waving 'it's for the children' in my face? I haven't had a slurpee in years...my kids just had their first one this June and they are in double digits...we don't drink soda or smoke either....why pick my pockets to line someone else's?

      August 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah01

      Where the hell are you getting your figures??? Social Security doesn't shell out 1340 per child from a deceased parent.. And how do you know her mother worked long enough or earned enough to get $1000 a month? I doubt it.Unless you work for the SS administration and know for sure about this family's financial history...shut up.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seola

      Pat, you are actually undervaluing it all! I did the full research on this long before and they qualify for essentially $5000 a month. Food stamps for support for all three of them would total around $500 a month (which is *more* than my budget for a family of 6 on an upper 5 single figure income). Housing in California for 3 state dependents would be around $1600 a month. Then you have SSI for all 3 which is close to another $2000.

      California has state medical aid AND they all three qualify for Medicaid/Medicare.

      Her mother's eye appointment was paid for. They just won't take public transportation, some of which is actually directed ONLY at the elderly. (In some areas called the OATS bus.)

      Asperger's is also a mild form of autism, he is fully functional mechanically and there are literally thousands of non-profits dedicated to helping them find work (it's a boon to the business as they get a tax credit for hiring disabled).

      And yes, she is a smoker. You can see it readily if you've ever lived around one.

      Lastly, if her car was already registered, then tags are minimal.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • hoth20

      Yes Pat, that's whats wrong with human beings now days, they always think someone is one up on them. For you to analyze this families situation to every cent is sickening. We need more humans analyzing how to help one another.......whats happening to this world?

      August 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seola

      What makes it sickening? I think someone should be more sickened by the fact that there are people out there constantly looking to trade up, making these pleas when they can sustain. The complaint is not getting fast food and slurpees for goodness sakes! A cell phone? Notice she said "lately". Which means while they were struggling before, she learned nothing from the help and continued to get these things thinking someone would keep catching her fall.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liutgard

      Pat, your numbers are not even close. I'm on disability and not getting anywhere near that. You really need to put down you tea and wake up to reality.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rick1948

    Come on Republicans – jump in here with your party line. How dare she have a child or mother! Shouldn't she be working that 5th and 6th part time, minimum wage, no-benefits job that your rich supporters want everyone to have!

    August 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ginamero

      Hey! I do support her. I pay mucho taxes which pays her child's SSI for the dead father, all three of the family members are on Medicare/Medicaid, the kid gets free tuition at the school for 'special' children. I can imagine there's food stamps in there as well as disability for Deborah. Unfortunately that family hit every bad branch when falling out of the DNA tree. The man did not have life insurance and one look at Deborah and her mother tell me they are SMOKERS. Quit with the party line that everyone whose made bad choices should get 50k a year plus bennies from the government (the people). 49% of the population can't support 51%. If she forwent the cigs...her kid could have had some clothes from the Goodwill. I pull an old tire down the street for exercise and people look at me funny...should the government buy me a gym membership and her a car?

      August 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ic

    My heart going out to this family. I have a grandson with aspergers and I know how much kids tease these teens and young children. I would like to help this teen if you can inform me where I can send some clothes for him. also want to encourage this family, never gave up there are people that will help you.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CPW

    Well you know now the Rich are hitting the discount stores Salvation Army/Goodwill> making it harder for the poor to get the cloths they need. Gotta love how this country works. Because of course the Rich need to go here because they cant afford cloths at brand name stores, as they need that money for their Humvee.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    Sorry, but I can't muster much sympathy. She already get SDI for the kid and Social SSDI for herself. Also, a special school program for her son and Meds. Also, they get Medicaid because they are on SS. What does she want? A middle class life without working? Find a way to hold a job and get some extra income.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patty

      It takes money to make money.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lonny

      I worked in Social Work for yrs and I bet u have never had to live off of SSI or SSDI benefits. Have u heard of rent, food, utilities? Try coming up w/a SSI check that can top those minor needs.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liutgard

      Funny- the words 'on disability' generally indicate that someone is _unable to work_. And apparently you have an impression of the amount of income one receives on disability and Social Security. It is far from a middle class income. I'm actually rather surprised that they are managing to pay rent and keep the lights on.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • exactlyright

      Couldn't agree more. I went to Cuba with my wife last summer to visit her father. Trust me. These people still have it good in comparison.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    Welcome to the new american order ` the government is here for you.
    The sheepel of the US believe the talking heads on tv ~ "rush said it, it must be true"
    Palin quits her post as gov. of alaska to make money and this makes her presidental material?
    Parry destroys the educational and social services system of texass and this makes him presidential material?
    Bachmann promises $2 a gallon gas and people cheer and believe her!
    Scott steals 100s of millions from the feds, gets to keep it and is elected the gov. of florida!
    Wing nuts say global warming is "junk science" and the world is only 4000 years old, man existed 3500 years ago with dinosaurs, and this makes them presidential material?
    Bigots vow to destroy Obama even if it means the destruction of the nation ~ and they are cheered on by the tea party!
    I am glad my time on the big blue marble is almost over ~ I don't want to be in the service underclass.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • carolina

      I say alright for the Donut Shoppe owner. The whole system is point and accuse. While some are not participating they are being torn down for everything they do.

      As for Pat who has such figures for the government support checks, I find it horrible that she quotes such nonsense.
      I wish I had a SS check that high, as I would not complain. The child needs to become affiliated with a church and at least they would furnish him some clothes that fit.

      God pity everyone who makes fund of someone pushing a stroller which is used to carry food home in.

      I do agree that people who are in the middle class are finally cutting down and it is because they are finally seeing that at any point they may be in dire financial positions.

      I am scare but refuse to dwell on it because when you quit as the lady in the article says that is all that can be done. Tie a knot in that rope and hold on for dear life.

      God is still in his heaven and nothing can change that.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. stella

    Poor people are often overweight, the cheapest foods, the foods that stretch , are all very high starch/high calorie types of food. Food is also a comfort in hard situations, they have nothing else.
    I was off work for the first time in my life 18 months ago, I am 54, had never been unemployed. I am skilled and it took me 18 months to get a job and I was a week from being homeless for the first time in my life. They need help, you can help or not.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Paul

    Whether you are a member of the Tea Party, a liberal or a moderate, we must remember that we one nation that should care about people who are in need, or unloved, or lost. This nation used to believe in kindness and compassion toward others. It is sad that the plight of these poor people is used to promote some silly political aim. So many people in this nation are suffering in all our communities. The purpose of this article is to remind us of their suffering and challenge us to do something about it. Just before we all face our Maker, we will wish that we did.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patty

      Well said.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suzy

      I have no doubt this family is suffering but they ARE receiving helpfrom the government in the form of SSI, SS, medicaid, food stamps,etc, etc.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
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