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. RTJ

    Sounds awful. It's too bad that this story is one of many, and even in this horrible time, (i.e., the economy sucks, everyone is mad at the people in charge of the US Govt., and times are just hard in general), these comments are just full of fighting and squbbling BS... we can't seem to pull together. It's not a "my problem is bigger than your problem" contest any more. We are all hurting in one way or another. Help someone, however you can. IF you can. If you can't...then just try and pick yourself up. It's gonna get worse before it gets better. Nothing is accomplished by kicking your fellow man while they are down.

    October 7, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. If you think these comments are bad...

    ...then America's behavior must really have you enraged. It's not what one says, it's what one does. And what does America do best? We are the best at consuming mind-altering drugs, murder and raype, missing children, etc., obesity epidemic, overall consumption of 1/3 of what the world produces. No, we can't afford it. We are deep in debt. So we send in the troops and take it, or suck it through the Wall Street hose. It's the ones most actively engaged in these things who make a big stink when someone wants to talk about them. C'mon...talk is cheap. Cheaper than a triple cheezberger XL combo even your doctor and nurses are obese. The avg. female weighs 167 pounds. What size is that? Men? Lardest ass bunch in American history. Maybe if we don't talk about it we'll do better. Like, I'm stigmatizing America herself. Not for what she says or for what she looks like. Rather, for who she has become.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. AutismPancakes

    There are a lot of family's that need help and it is an unfortunate sign of the times. As the parent of a boy with Autism, and watching the numbers escalate, it becomes more and more obvious. If you would like to know a little bit more about the life of a family touched by autism, I highly recommend Rebecca Maher's "Pancakes and a Lobster Tank; Living with Autism, Loving Alex" (www.autismplay.com) for an emotional yet entertaining look at just one family's story.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
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