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. zhawk88

    Precisely why I no longer vote GOP. They do not value these people. A very touching story, and I wish this family the best.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • QS

      The truly amazing and mind boggling thing about that though, is that there are actually people out there in this same situation that will for whatever unknown reason still vote for a republican!

      I don't know what political affiliation this family claims, but I would sincerely hope that they know better than to vote republican and expect their situation to improve!

      August 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • heehawgoat

      In California Mom 82 gets disability and all those needs that her daughter says she helps her with are funded by in-home support services. California will pay you to stay home with a disabled family member. The son has Aspergers once again another big check, depending on the severity she can get paid to take care of her son as well. I estimate both of those SSI checks are total of 1800 bucks and those In-home health checks are close to 3600 or more a month. I'm being nice with my estimates... I'm not saying this lady doesn't have it tough, physically yes a tough job, but the Government is on her side. I work in healthcare so I know the figures. bottom line I'm not losing sleep over this story

      August 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      Why doesn't Obama care about people like this? His family in Kenya and his aunt that lived here are not so different and he turned his back on them too...

      August 24, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snap

      to heehawgoat AMEN!
      You said what needs to be said. There are a LOT of facts missing in this story.!!!

      The several states I am familiar with, this family would have several thousand dollars a month (including value of free housing) tax free money.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. SPQR

    Greed one the 7 deadly sins.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick

    If I was 13 and having to wearing my mom’s pants to school. I would have already gotten out the lawn mower or borrowed one and cut some grass in the neighborhood. Or does everyone need to wait on a handout?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • zhawk88

      Always assume the worst in people eh? What a great way to live. God forbid you put yourself in his shoes you worthless piece of crap.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cult of Personality

      @Rick – When I was 12 and 13, I used to shovel snow in front of the apartment complex I grew up at via Brooklyn, NY. The so-called "chump" change I got for shoveling an entire sidewalk was hardly enough to buy myself an entire wardrobe. YOU ARE A MORON !!!!!

      August 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • lmc

      Obviously you have no knowledge of Asperger's Syndrone. It would be quite difficult for a child with this to be that outgoing. They usually have strong socialization skills.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • AH2262

      It's easy for us to say what they could do to make ends meat; sadly, who do you think lives around them....wealth neighbors who can AFFORD to have someone cut there yards? Who will provide the lawn mower and the gas to begin this process.....we must THINK before we speak....especially when you don't understand the complexity of being POOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Well, the kid having azberger's syndrome not withstanding, what an ignorant comment.

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

      That sounds a lot like what we used to call work. Now, the US pays 3rd generation welfare a better wage to sit around and eat.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      I don't think you understand Asperger's syndrome. It's not laziness, or waiting for a hand out.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • royce

      Everyone has a different outlook on life and obviously these people do not have the greatest outlook on things but to say this kid needs to be more capitalistic at 13 well he has to mow and garden 20 houses a day to make a living for him and his mother, and to think of him competing against other gardeners(and theres more than plenty) is sick. They need some emergency aide and someone kind enough to guide them through hard times and yes to show them all kinds of opportunities but do not expect and demand that they themselves can do this in a random moments notice while under the psychological spell of extreme poverty.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • slider

      Rick...this is a liberal blog and you are apparently politically incorrect....they will hang you.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Margaret

      Not sure if you read the entire article. The son has Asperger's syndrome. Hopefully with the right education and treatment he will be able to work. I would guess that he probably WANTS to work.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Momofour1

      Rick has been diagnosed with aspergers – in other words he is disabled. May look normal but probably couldn't hold a decent conversation with anyone. What part of that you don't understand? I have a problem with people labelling the poor as being lazy – a great number of them worked harder than any rich person put together perhaps in their lifetime – most work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. As for the rich – some of them got there through inheritance, opportunity and at times even through deceptive means. Buying shares and making it big in the stock market is not hard work, again you need resources to do that – I do recognize that some of them got there through hard work. And if they did, they should be in touch with what the rest are going through and not enact policies that would only benefit a select few, but policies should benefit the public good. There is a simple logic for this, if this is not addressed – the problems would be exacerbated and would impact similarly the nation, the rich and the poor alike.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      better get back to to whipping your living out of your illegals. Traitor!

      August 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • GEM

      Well, Rick, aren't you the enterprising genius!

      August 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      Rick, a kid with Asperger's... can you read Rick?

      August 24, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kurt

      @Rick.... are you suggesting someone actually get out and WORK to obtain money?!?!

      August 24, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      "Whoever made humanity will find no humanity here.' You're a disgusting individual. What kind of adult says that about a 13 year old kid. I hope you never have children because you'd be an awful father.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. judie

    how can we help? is there a link to donate or anything??

    August 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Judie, I found her on Facebook...Deborah Anne Walker. She has messaged back to me. Try that. Bless you!

      August 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jms

    waaaaaaaaaaaaaa cry babies

    August 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cult of Personality

      @jms – You are such an idiot !!!!!!!!!!

      August 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cult of Personality

    "Deborah Anne Walker 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..." Well, hate to break it to you Mrs. Walker, but that's what happens when your nation votes for GOP / Tea Party extreme right-wing radicals into office that are solely out for the wealthiest top 2% of the nation. They could honestly CARE LESS about people in your position. You are not even on their radar, so-to-speak.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      You are right. Not even in the same planet.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |

      I thought Obummer was a Democrate.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Kermit12

      I agree with you totally. What the GOP has done to 98% of other people in this country is pathetic.

      After 8 years of G.W., it is a miracle that things are not much worse. Check out the number one state in the
      nation: Nevada. It is a GOP state. Why I will never understand.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. syd

    If we could get sizes for the boy and an address, we'll get him some clothes.
    Thank you.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      I was thinking the same thing. At that age kids go through clothes so fast due to growth that 'hand me downs' frequently have seen only a dozen wearings at most. Give us an address and I know I can get the kid a small wardrobe. Heck I'll bet I could put a sign up at my church and would have them by next Sunday.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      I found her on Facebook...Deborah Anne Walker. I have already messaged her.

      August 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MM

    Doesn't sound like they're paying for a slurpee, much less any crisis.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. kjb31889

    "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."

    Umm, perhaps it is becuase you are poor -_-

    August 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kermit12

      Simply put, whatever company made your brain and body, they forgot to put in the HUMAN SOUL.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. kqtherine

    Okay–is there an address where we can send something. Even if it's only a book of Jack in the box coupons? This story (and I know it's only one of many, many stories) is heart-breaking.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Hi kqtherine, I found her on Facebook. Deborah Anne Walker. I have already messaged her. I'm sure that David would be very excited to get Jack in The Box gift cards! What kid wouldn't?

      August 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michelle

    How sad. And people think that the unemployed and underemployed are just sitting around spending government money. Life is hectic and full of surprises and anyone can end up in a bad position like this. I hope them the best and I really hope that CNN does something to help.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • LP

      I think all the journalists at CNN should take up a donation for this family! C'mon....you all make pretty good salaries; so $100 each, yes?! You could get that car of hers registered, gas it up, buy groceries, buy a cellphone for her and pay the first 6 months, pay a months rent....hell...2 months, buy some clothes for her son, and Ipod would be nice for him as well. How about the next update would be that CNN took care of this family.........not much to ask, is it?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. harley883

    wow...having 3 teenagers myself...I know it can be tough...first off...David has grown into quite the handsome young man and I seriously doubt there is much teasing anymore...at his size and with his good looks he will be fine....as a mother ...I know how "hovering" a parent can be....and I am afraid that you ladies keep him down....you need to let him have more time with some guys after school...maybe let him move into a house with a father figure....your mom gets assistance so that is good..but you older ladies need to start taking care of yourselves do David does not have that cross to bear when he is 18...good luck to you all and hang in there David!!!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      That would be nice... but David has Asperger's... remember? Kids with Asperger's don't typically "hang out" with the guys. If "the guys" hand out with them, it's usually trouble. Teens with Asperger's can be gullible and are sitting targets to be taken advantage of. Please know this.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Yvonne

    How can I help? Where can I send a contribution?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Yvonne, I found her on Facebook. I have already messaged her. Hope this helps you. Deborah Anne Walker

      August 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Morganlafey

    Very sad for this family. I'm sure that there are other families that are also suffering. In my town, we have food pantries and places that give away clothes for free to people who need them. Maybe they have something like this in their town. I hope their lives get better. It's sad that so many people are struggling; especially children and the elderly.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Utsav

    Hi – I am looking for the name of the CNN reporter associated with this story. I would like to help this family in any way possible. Please provide some additional information. Thanks.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • DblJprdy

      The Demonrats and Obama are going to DRIVE THIS NATION INTO THE GROUND. Pretty soon, there will be an uprising and/or revolution here as you currently see in Greece, Great Britain, Spain, etc. So long as these RADICALS are voted into office, "Believe it or Not."
      I want to donate too... Have they set up a way yet?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • LP

      Ask the reporter if CNN has helped this family.....or if said reporter has.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • KLDGBB

      @Dbljprdy – you are blaming the Dems and Obama for the plight of this family? Really?

      August 24, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      I I would be interested in donating to this family, so if you find out anything please reply to your post. I'd be most interested in sending clothes to her son in the form of gift certificates. Thank you!

      August 24, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Hi Utsav, His name is Jim Kavanagh. I found him on facebook under Jim Kavangh CNN. On there I found Deborah Ann Walker on his friends list. Hope this helps.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
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