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. AR

    how can i help

    August 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gina

    Money is very tight for me right now and I was thinking how it sucks but this family has it worse and this really puts things in perspective. Kids in school especially high school want to wear all fancy brands and designer clothes and this poor kid would just be happy with something that fits. They are all in my prayers. The economy has to get better because people still need to live their lives.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. wanzenstich

    We are a terrible society if we do not reach out to help. So lets get with it.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JH

    CNN, can someone on your staff establish a bank fund or trust where money can be transferred, FBO, this family? Those who can, and want to, can donate to this family periodically. It's too bad that while this family is struggling, popular media are raving about a celebrity wedding where millions were spent and even more were earned for product endorsement and placement. With that kind of disparity and the vanishing middle class, perhaps some of us can make a difference by helping to the extent we are able. Thank you for this article – I hope it results in help for this family.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. L84AD8

    @Quasit: true, and well-stated.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cowboybob

    I wonder if these citizens vote? If all poor or uneducated people actually got out and voted for once, maybe our greedy leaders would show a little more interest. the only thing they care about is their wallets and lobbiests. Shame, shame on American self interests! At one time I really thought this was the land of oppurtunity for all! This article makes me so mad! Hey, by the way, where the heck is that kid's father? Probably another SSI case. Welcome to the third world country of the brave!!!!!

    August 24, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      The article clearly stated that the woman was a widow.

      August 24, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Big D

    There's nothin' wrong with a-captialism! There's nothin wrong a-free enter-prise! Dont try, to make me feel guilty....IM SO TIRED, OF HEARIN YOU CRY-Y! Theres nothin wrong with a-making a prof-it! If you ask me Im a say its just fine.....Theres nothing wrong, with wanting to live nice, IM SO TIRED, OF HEARIN YOU WHINE about the "revolution", and bringing down the rich, whens the last time you dug a ditch, bay-bay! *doo doo-doo doo dee-doo doo dee-doo doo dee* YOURE JUST A MIDDLE CLASS SOCIALIST BRAT! FROM A SUBURBAN FAMLY AND YOU NEVER REALLY HAD TO WOR-ORK! And now ya tell me that weve got to get back, to the struggling mass, whoever they are! YA TALK TALK TALK BOUT THE SUFFERING AND PAIN, YOUR MOUTH IS BIGGER THAN YOUR ENTIRE BRAIN! What the HELL do you know about suffering and pain anway!!

    August 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John

    this story is sad yet inspirational. It pales in comparison to any rough times most people are going through, yet is amazing that they are so positive and fail to give up. How do some of us get in touch to help this family and other families going through similar times?

    August 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HonestPoverty

    Their church was mentioned. If they still have a regular church, I'd like to put a call out for them to help again (and if their support has been ongoing I'd like to know why the reporter didn't mention it). People helping them through an organization like that is a great way to go as they can see their needs and help them with more than just $ – they need care assistance and emotional support – something the government can (and will) never provide.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mary

    My heeart breaks for these folks. I know the recession has greatly impacted me and many others, but it is nothing compared to this family's suffering. How can we help? Can CNN set up a link/Pay Pal account–anything–so readers can contribute what they can?

    August 24, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sandra Rubio

    Please post or email back how we can help.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blondie

      I agree Sandra lets help instead of kicking while someone is down. Have a heart!

      August 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. HonestPoverty

    Why doesn't Obama care?

    August 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. natrldiver

    This shows what the true American spirit and human perserverance. She is not screaming woe is me, she is not asking the government for handouts. She is working with what little she has, using the available resources and focusing on the family. I commend her and her family. She is so much better off than the socialite leftists who want handouts at every chance they can get.

    As a parent of an autistic child I fully understand the challenges. With the proper assistance though they will be productuve members of society.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gmo

      I'm not sure if you are being sarcastic. But if you aren't just so you know, they are living off of government money. Social Security and disability.

      August 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joyce

      I also receive Social Security Disability and my husband is retired as a mechanic for the same company for 24 years on a disability due to two back surgeries after years of back problems. Jim said this was living on the "government's money". I worked since I was a teenager and paid into the Social Security system for almost 30 years until I was determined disabled. My husband paid into his retirement account since day one of his employment.

      @Gmo - We are NOT living off of the government's money, nor is she and her family; it is our money which we paid throughout the years.

      We've taken a pay cut of over $15,000 a year. This has landed us in the same boat ... we have friends that have brought us groceries, personal care goods, gift cards for gas, and so on. We still don't have enough money each month to pay our regular bills, doctor appointments, and prescriptions. Lately it has been the medications and doctor visits that have been neglected. I receive Medicare from being on disability and can't afford to pay the 20% to my doctors nor does it pay for any of my prescriptions. I can try to get on a Medicare D plan to help with prescriptions but that takes more money out of my $776 a month check and don't know if I can afford to do that.

      We never thought that we would find ourselves in a position like this. We are both under 50 years old and it's scary to think that we have to live on a poverty level for another 30 years or so. I am scared every day. Our church has helped us tremendously in the past but there is always a limit to the extent of how they can help. We're extremely grateful for all that friends, family, and our church has done but we can't rely on that help for an extended period of time.

      We continue to keep our faith in God and pray for His continued provision. We are grateful for those who have come side-by-side with us and helped in whatever way they could. We will always be grateful for the love, prayers, and concern of others. It's overwhelming.

      We would appreciate the prayers of those who Believe and the kind thoughts of those who do not.

      Kindness is not just giving to those who have not but giving because you have. God bless you.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Thomas Payne

    It is truly amazing that while so many Americans are doing without, our president is wasting MILLIONS on a totally unnecessary vacation along with his fat ass wife not to mention his totally pointless and stupid bus tour, again, costing MILLIONS. You voted for hope and change. Hope your satisfied.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Strong

      Typical republican response to someone in need....sling mud at the president. The current economic mess we're in is the result of 8 years of Bush's failed policies. I saw on CNN that his tax breaks for the oil companies have cost the U.S. more than both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined! When Clinton left office, we had an economic surplus. When Bush left office, we had a $2,500,000,000,000. deficit, thats 2500 billions!!! And you deride Obama for taking a simple vacation?
      You should wake up and realize that when the church tells you the republicans have your best interests at heart, they
      are lying!

      August 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gahh

    These are the people that the Republicans want to cut benefits for, while giving their wealthy pals massive tax breaks. Perry just told the Federal Government to keep their 6 million dollars that was being given to the State of Tx., to help the poorest people in Tx.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
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