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. saved1

    This family's story reminds me of my own monthers situation. She gave up her job to move her mother in and care for her. My step dad was just layed off. My borther has been unable to find unemployment for two years now and lives at her home too. I have no clue how they are going to make it. There are no jobs out there and people need help! Please don't judge someone you don't know. I am praying for this mother. I am praying for all of us! May God help us all.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. L84AD8


    Uh huh. Use anything at all to bash Obama.
    Perhaps YOU can donate a paycheck to these people, as you're obviously so flush with funds. What a perfectly moronic thing to say!

    August 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Becky

    Agree with Jeff and further the son may not be able to work.... Asperger's means he has social issues and does not do well with other people usually....

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

    Isn't Vista one of those towns in N. San Diego County (along with Fallbrook) that is historically a John Birch Society stronghold? Good luck in getting any "socialist" help; the radical right, if their own words are to be believed, has no use for 'parasites'.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steve Ward

    Did anyone read about Donald Trump's new personal 747 he just bought. Watch that video and this story will make you even more angry, about the divide between the rich and the poor Just do a search on the video about Donald Trump new jet.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. nickenick


    August 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • YoungTexan

      Do you have something against teens and young adults? I resent your comment. Not every teen is a brat and not all have bad parents.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kermit12

      You said it and said it well.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jaycee

    Too bad "Kardashians" of the world won't see the riches in heaven that this woman will.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alexandrine


      August 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. L84AD8

    Since when is it the resposibility of CNN to solve the problems it reports on?
    Are you people nuts?

    August 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ProperVillain

      Your heart called, it wants to be let out of the ice box you put it in...

      August 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keri Anne

      Agree this story shouldnt be on CNN

      August 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • rawr


      Pretty sure when I was 12 I worked on a farm to have any money and have been working since. All my clothes came from my brother's handme downs (meaning holes everywhere). We never "ate out" at jack and the box or any other junk-food place - no wonder he is 245 lbs.

      Her mother gets SS & Medicare. She more than likely gets disability and I know he gets a check for having autism now.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mona in Tulsa

    Unless you have been there, you cannot possibly know what it is like to take care of an elderly person, in this case, her own mother. There is no rest, or free time, just work. A child with Asperger's requires special attention as well...again, where would her free time come from? This is exactly the type of family that needs help from social services programs. Sounds like she is doing all she can and still it's not enough! I would pray for her rather than expound an air of critical or harsh words. "There, but for the grace of G*d go I!"

    August 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. openlyliberal

    PS You stupid people. All the comments about being 15 and 245lbs. That sounds like a diet of cheap prepackaged food and not enough more expensive fruits and veggies. Oh and yeah lets all kill the kid because he is getting a good education. Its funny, I thought that every kid deserves a good education not just the rich private school kids. You think this family is asking for government help, maybe they are just telling their story because CNN came calling. Come on people you all can be cynics

    August 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissLara

      Most likely his weight is caused by psychiatric meds which are well known to cause obesity. Poverty is also known to cause obesity due to cheap food being higher in carbs and empty calories. Give the kid and his mom a break.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MissLara

    The son also qualifies for SSI and Social Security survivors benefits since his father is deceased.On a different note, it is irresponsible of CNN to list where a minor attends school. It only invites predators who now with the photo of this child can very easily track him and/or his family down. The reporter simply could have said he attends a special needs school in the San Diego area. Please for this family's sake remove that information.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keri Anne


      August 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. capnronman

    The mom obviously smokes heavily. The son obviously eat too much. Possibly meth. Some problems could be avoided here. Not to judge, but look at the photo people.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruBeliever

      You just judged them....


      August 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    "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."

    Egad. WHO'S paying for it? ME! And every other working person. Her household get Social Security, Disability, free meds, free one-on-one schooling, and free school bus transportation. She also qualifies for food stamps and Section 8 housing. And she's whining about not being able to buy slurpees, see movies or own cell phones. Since when did these things become a birthright?

    Does the kid have a part time job? No. Oh, but he's got "Asperger's". Big deal. So did I (undiagnosed at the time) yet I still had to work to help put food on the table when I was his age.

    And I'm sorry, but no FAT teenager has the right to call himself poor. Go to Africa to see what true poverty is.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • NSM

      Social Security is not a hand out. I would bet if you were in their shoes you would expect the same assistance. This family is not abusing a system. They are down on their luck and trying to make ends meet. If you do not have something nice to say, do not say anything at all!

      August 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DD

    Never ever ever give up.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Terry Coultas

    You're all friggin Morons its not about politics, or right or wrong, its about taking care of ourselves like it was done in the old days. And no, I never walked to school barefoot in the snow. Its friggin common sense quite waiting for the government to pick you up, or we'll all put our hand out and wait at the same time.

    Terry Coultas Canyon Country Ca.

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