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. the_dude

    The son is 6'2" and 245lbs obviously they have money for fast food and cigarettes.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joyce

      Dude, I am overweight as well. It has nothing to do with overeating or smoking ... starchy and filling foods are far less expensive than healthy foods and add weight that is not due to overeating but eating what we can afford. Unfortunately, fresh vegetables and whole grains are beyond the reach of my pocket book strings.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Person with a heart

    Please please please post how we can help! I feel bad for all of them but especially the young man...

    August 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blondie

      I think a little help and love go along way.

      August 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. stacy scovill

    would love to help please let us know how and sizes of clothes an address of the church we can send things to please

    August 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blondie

      Right on Stacy!

      August 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sean

    Some people need a lift once in a while and that one little lift can bring them back into shape, so I would like to help them and live north of them but not too far to help. Please contact me so I can see what I can do, I was helped once and that got me going again, you just need a ray of hope and it will get better from there. I know a teenager needs his own clothes and not get teased, that really kills me.
    contact ,e

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

    I did not read any reference to it, but even if she smokes, I believe she deserves it. Having to handle two sick relatives full time, her own health issues, plus the financial issues should be stressful to anyone. Have some compassion, people.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DADDY_O

    A widowed mother has so little money that she can't afford to get decent clothes and supplies for her teenage son and is too "proud" to use government assistance even when it would make life so much easier for son and disabled mother, yet some fat lady in Arizona is mooching off welfare and state medicaid funds to stuff her face with 20,000 calories of food each day just so she can break the record as the *WORDS MOST OBSESE WOMAN*??? W T F !

    August 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ohplease

    The kid is a tub a lard, granny can get her hair permed, and I'm sure momma is smoking 3 packs a Marlboros a day as well as swilling several BUDS.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      You're a terrible human being.

      August 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scarecrow

      I'm with ohplease on this one.

      August 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • ohplease

      Jessica, get real. These poeple are stoking for a reality show on MTV. And I am NOT A TERRIBLE PERSON. I am stroking my bible as we speak.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • exactlyright

      Jessica, this is exactly why our country is in the shape it is in today. Our need to be politically correct has overcome our ability to see things as they are. As soon as someone says "These people are whining and doing nothing to help themselves", there is someon there ready to sling a bible verse at them and tell them they are not compassionate. There comes a point when we have to say "enough is enough", either quit making excuses for why your life is not working or get out. CNN's own Anderson Cooper has covered the truly tragic happenings in Somalia recently. How can anyone think that these people's lives are difficult in comparison? We still live in one of the greatest countries on earth and the opportunities abound for anyone who will take the time to do something better with their time than whine about what they don't have and how difficult their lives are.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. JuniperTree1901

    100 years ago people with Asperger's would get a job and support the family...lazy 16 year old kid...

    August 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Scarecrow

    Looks like they all smoke. How much extra money a day would that be if they quit?

    August 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brian

    Please post how we can contribute...

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

      You already do...don't be guilted into giving even more of what you work so hard for!

      August 25, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. MyAngel

    I wish I could help them but I'm in a similar situation. I have been disabled for 6 months. I've done everything I can to keep my job while I have been out but I am simply in too bad of a condition to work and I supported myself up until this happened. After finally finding a good surgeon who will remove the tumor that is disabiling me, my employer notifies me just today they are terminating my benefits. On top of that I exhausted my TDI in May, have no means of income, applied for ssi for this but my claim is still pending. They just keep asking for more paperwork and I can't even get myself get to the mailbox down the street most days with pain/headaches. I'm a single young woman and I don't not smoke btw. I can't get any assistance unless I have at least one child and I have none. I have been only eating because my elderly father pays for my food and my mother has advanced alzheimers. He is the main care giver and I have not been able to help with her because of my own illness.

    Now, how can I have the surgery that will get me back to a normal life when they just took away my insurance and I have no means at all to pay for cobra or anything like that? To make it a little more ironic, I work for a big corporation in the business of "health care management." Well, they haven't made anything easy from the day I had to take my leave until today when they broke my spirit. My house is pending in short sale and I have been barely able to pay for electricity and water, again only with my father's help who is a saint that cannot watch his children suffer but he is in bad financial position himself and we have had so many problems just to get my mother any care. So on the days he works she stays alone and we all pray she doesn't wonder out of the house again. I've lived without cable or phone landline for a few years now before I even became sick. I have no idea what to do myself but being in this position I can tell you, it really stinks being unable to work when you really want to and I do. Or even take care of yourself if you are alone like me and get sick? I wish this family well.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JuniperTree1901

      but you are on the Internet and updating Facebook each day...

      August 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. weesnaw

    They are already getting disability payments. If it's not enough to cover the expenses, it's time to move to a place where you can afford the rent.

    The Salvation Army will provide a voucher for the child to get clothes from the Salvation Army store, so I don't buy the bit about him needing clothes. And honestly, if the kid weighs 245 pounds at 16, someone needs to address his food intake choices. He's OBVIOUSLY getting enough food, so maybe it's time to cut back. He is also old enough to start helping to support himself. The Goodwill employs people who have "disabilities" like Asperger's, so don't give me the BS about him being unable to work because of his "disability." The fact is, if he works, he won't get all the free money his mom is used to receiving.

    I take issue with people who are ALREADY receiving benefits like SSDI, when they complain that they can't make ends meet. I would be willing to bet cash money that she still manages to purchase her cigarettes while "struggling" through all this, too. Give me a break!

    August 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Loren Davidson

      Here's hoping you have to walk a mile in her shoes.

      August 24, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      it must be so comforting to know you are a perfect person. rationalization and minimization are wonderful tools when trying to avoid the pain and despair in another persons life. I cannot say where all of this lack of compassion for those who have little or nothing but I would bet my last dollar you claim to be a good christian – God help us all if America falls into the political grip of people like you. Go in Peace

      August 24, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • abh123

      you really shouldn't judge...what a horrible thing to say about someone you know nothing about!!! You better hope one day you will stay healthly enough to live the life you have now...no one is promised a tomorrow that means LIFE, WORK and HEALTH. The realty is it could be you!!!!

      August 24, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      you know, excuse me, but I am not through – you say move to a cheaper place – have you ever been poor and no money to move – how would you go about that. did you know that food the poor can afford is mostly all carbs and fat. compare how much healthy food costs compared to a pot of beans. give you a break, I would love to – I think the best punishment for people like you is to be forced to live with yourselves – give me a break

      August 24, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iknownothing

      Finally someone with a spine! I agree 100% Thanks for posting! All you loosers leave him alone!

      August 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • LuckyLady

      You really are an unpleasant person. How awful to have no understanding of what poverty really means and how much it kills a person's spirit. I would say that I hope you don't have to experience it someday, but that would be a lie. I hope you do. That's the only way heartless people learn compassion.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      You clearly do not have a teenager, or a teenager with a disability that affects his maturity level and makes him a sitting duck for legal trouble. You have clearly never taken care of anything. Thank God. Why don't you try being forgotten, unheard, unseen, powerless. More than the lack of things, what is the most devastating about poverty or illness is the lack of compassion. I would love to see what you do without.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      For the record~~~~Aspergers is not the kind of disability where work is a given. I have an Aspie son around the same age with and he is not able to work right now and it is highly likely he will not contribute in that manner at all. Insofar as the SS benefits, they are not enough to cover even a quarter of living costs for the disabled. What do you suggest families actually do for loved ones who are ill

      August 24, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • debdeb

      Jerk! What if there isn't a salvation army where they live or a Goodwill within walking distance. Also for your info, healthy food tends to rather costly. I am all for helping yourself, but don't be so harsh about this poor family. Do you really think they want to be in this situation? Look at all this poor woman is doing.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • weesnaw

      1.) I'm not a "him"; I am a woman.

      2.) People whom are addicted to nicotine will spend their very last bottom dollar to support their habit. I have zero tolerance for this.

      3.) I tire easily of individuals that feed off of those that make an effort to work, and work HARD for their TAXABLE money.

      4.) Many people on "disability" abuse it. It's a cut and dried issue. If she and her child did not have access to free medicaid benefits, there would be no need to have to "find" a way to make it to the BS doctors' appointments. It's simple. The fact that she CAN see a doctor for free and for NON life-threatening medical issues means she WILL, and she will milk it for all it's worth.

      5.) I know when I am on the right track if people (you) start talking smack about my political affiliations. You haters couldn't be more off the mark at your guesses if you tried. Good luck with all that. 🙂

      August 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nice Person

      Knowing acronyms such as SSIDI indicate that only a disgruntle SSA employee would post an in appropriate comment. To keep the integrity of all SSA programs those who work for the agency should keep their thoughts and comments to them self about personal case that they may be working on or knows about since it sounds like you know this family personally. Weesnaw next time please learn to be kind to other like your parents, teacher’s, elders taught you growing up. People like you are the reason why kids in school today are bully’s, they are not taught how far a kind word, smile or even a hello goes.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kathy

    Tell us how can we help.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. America the Fallen

    This is the price we are paying for DECADES of unrestricted importing foriegn goods and outsourcing foriegn labor. Shame on greedy American corporations, inept government officials, and the ignorant Americans that supported both.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmyTC

      I fail to get the connection between those two things.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tanya

    Please send info as to how I can provide some assistance to this family in need. It is really hard taking care of self let alone two individuals with true health issues. I'd take care and do anything for my mother and son. Thank GOD I have the means. However, I know that I am no different than the next guy and can be the one who is down and out like this family. It can happen in a blink of an eye – so have compassion for those who are hurting. It could be you, your bestfriend, family member etc....next.. GOD works in some mysterious ways :)) Lets mature as a country and help those who really are "trying" to make it.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
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