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. Annie

    The reporters name is Jim Kavanagh. This is truely a sad sitution, but this family is only one out of God knows how many are struggling on a daily bases to keep their heads above water.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Want to help

      We all need to help if its just one family at a time.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      It takes helping one at a time ..... Please CNN how do we help!

      August 24, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BuffaloNY

    How can we help her? Please post information. Thank you.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Struggling Families

    There are so many families who are struggling in similar situations. Our family has been living like this for a long time.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris B.

      I would like to help the Deborah Walker family. Can you please tell me how to contact them?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. redog

    Help? Right. obama and his cronies should be first in line to give these folks assistance since their failed and anti-human policies are causing so much harm to ordinary human beings......they're just like the monsters whose polise are responsible for the deaths of millions around the globe – lust for control, power, dominance. And you all support this monster, yet want to contribute. How sweet of you, how hypocritical, how sickening.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Say what?

      Your comment has absolutely no basis in reality. Put down the Kool-Aid. Breathe. Get a grip.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Doesn't the GOP party equate much more with the "anti-human" actions than the Dem's do? Dem's usually help people, GOP has a record of hurting them which is so anti-christ like.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • R Calling

      I presume you are trying to say that Repub policies are better when research has shown that the policies of the right grow the income gap a lot more. And I applaud your self confidence and sense of security displayed by indiscriminate name calling. Kudos to you.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cathy

    @ cult of personality we can only hope the rest of the country will feel this way in the coming months so we don have to live with a Republican president.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • jack dub

      Please explain what it is the Democrats have done to improve this situation for these families.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iceman

      jack dub, you would have a much harder time explaining what Republicans have done – unless you were honest and said "squat".

      August 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. natere2ster

    how exactly is she "disabled"?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • frank

      She's too crazy to work.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iceman

      You're right. She's probably totally faking a disability. She should just get her lazy behind off the couch and get one of those jobs that are right there for the taking. At the very least, she could sign up for a tour of duty in Iraq, right?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BeckyH

    Please post a way to help.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaye

      Facebook...Deborah Anne Walker...message her and she will give you her info. Paypal account is how I sent a few dollars. Walkerdaw2@att.net

      September 29, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. johnborg

    So, make your choice, capitalist #1 (GOP) or capitalist #2 (Dem). We need a new economic system. I'm not calling for communism or socialism. I'm demanding an economy of the local, free trade on a micro-level where people know people.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Claire

      yay! A sane, logical person!

      August 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ann Jones

    Please tell us how we can help this family...this is a heartbreaking story, but unfortunately one that is very common in these economic times. May God bless and keep them well.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • msmetz

      Sorry, but if there was a god to bless them, they wouldn't be in this situation.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Ann, message her on facebook: Deborah Anne Walker. She will give you her info. I sent a little money thru paypal. Walkerdaw2@att.net

      September 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dianne

    I would also like to help this family. We are all in need of some mercy at some point in our lives. It's not charity in these situations; it's justice.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaye

      Dianne, you can find her on facebook: Deborah Anne Walker. Please message her and she can give you her info. I send her a little help thru her paypal account. Walkerdaw2@att.net

      September 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jimmy

    I think the saddest part of this whole story is that most presidential candidates for 2012 actually believe that these people should be taxed more to "make sure they have skin in the game." God forbid should we raise taxes 1% more on people making more than a million dollars, no, they're the "job creators." These Republicans make me sick.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • LK

      I agree. It is sickening.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. education

    As an educator, it would be interesting to know what the level of education is of the woman and her mother. Poverty this bad (and I really do feel for her) usually starts with dropping out of school...and things go downward from there. Where does her education play into this – or lack there of. Either way, my heart reaches out to them.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • hannah01

      It's a little late to quesiton her education, don't you think? She needs help now...

      August 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. KLDGBB

    Mean people suck!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Communapitalist

      @KLDGBB – Agreed – 100%

      August 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricky

      They absolutely do !!!!!!

      August 24, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • ILVTOFU

      I know some nice people that suck, too! :-)

      August 25, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Citizen Rights

    If you listen to FOX News everyone in this country has everything they need: refrigerator, microwave, TV.........car.....!!!!!
    I suggest that FOX News, CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC send out reporters to neighborhoods and see just what's happening on Main Street. I think they will find a picture of hurting and suffering brought on by big Banks and Wall Street. They're responsible for this and they need to step up to the plate. While they are driving their expensive cars, going on big vacation trips and living the life of luxury, some of us are scratching to cloth our children and put food on the table.
    It's a crying shame!!!!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jeff P.

    I just LOVE it when folks who know nothing about the situation except what they've read presume things like this woman probably wastes her money on a cigarette habit. that takes some freakin' gall. It's morons like you that hurt this country more than anything, with your floating anger you're more than happy to take out on people you know nothing about. Get some therapy and get a life. Oh, wait, I forgot-you're perfect, right?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brent

      Aren't you late for your tea party rally?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • RHinWI

      Right you are!

      August 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jpat

      And you are a small minded ass.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      And who do you work so hard for, JuniperTree1901? Lord Valdemort?

      August 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • JBW

      Lazy? I'd rather give my last cent to help some one in need, lazy or not, then live in wealth with someone as hateful as you. There for the grace of god go us all. What happens if you lose that full time job and couldn't find another? I hope you find your humanity before your karma finds you first.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • kevin

      you said it all.

      August 24, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • TOONCES

      I'm not perfect but I pay for my own bs, not the US taxpyers.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • RUFFNUT

      Some people can't because they cant help it

      August 25, 2011 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
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