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. David L

    This may not be appropriate and I am sure someone will tell me that I am a horrible human, mean spirited, evil, etc and some other myriad of insults. The truth of the matter is, it is in instances like this where sterilization is appropriate. A mother with a disease, son with a disease, both of which are genetic! I'm not saying end their lives, but prevent them from having off spring that will be a further drain on society, and be unable to fend for themselves. Up until even 60 – 80 years ago without the advent of modern medicine they would have died naturally and been unable to reproduce. With all the medicines available, individuals that normally wouldn't have been able to live are and as a whole are hurting more than themselves.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      You are none of those things....maybe nazi fits better?

      August 24, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      are you serious – My God where do you people come from? you are unbelievable – If I were so mean, evil, uncaring, stupid, I would try to stay off of the internet where you just may post something that opens a window to your soul or lack there of

      August 24, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      Sorry, David. You are not evil or mean spirited, you are suffering from Over Simplification Syndrome. If it is genetic, perhaps you need to be looking into ways to not pass it on.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tanya

    most of the individuals on here posting ignorant, unkind and inhumane comments really need our prayers. *nuff said*

    August 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    As always weesnot...I mean weesnaw...leave it to those with more to judge what those with less NEED! Let me guess...republican???

    August 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • debdeb

      I believe he is a democrat!

      August 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jen

    Indeed. Please somehow post info on how people can help this family. My child is also high school aged. I can only imagine what that kid has to endure on a daily basis. People, stop judging and start helping. I agree with the previous person who posted about walking a mile in their shoes. Beyond difficult, absolutely.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. L84AD8

    Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. annes

    cnn please let us know how we can help this family. I know that there are people out there who have tons of money and they should join in and helping this family. Post an address so we can do something for them. ams

    August 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. curt

    You'll never make as much as you deserve... It's just how the world bankers and kings and queens of the world stay in power....

    August 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JustMy2Cents

    What makes it especially difficult is the fact that all of the manufacturing jobs have been sent overseas, and not just by the republicans as Clinton signed NAAFTA. It was a 2 bladed sword – we can buy cheap TVs but the rest of the world gets our assembly jobs. The US is now a nation of service industries. In the first depression we had the CCC to rebuild (and build) our infrastructure to create jobs. In this depression we need to to do the same as well as impose tarfiffs and tax those who send jobs (including IT jobs) overseas and give tax breaks to those who dont.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • InnerPeace

      Unfortunately this would label you as a socialist today as everyone know that the government cant create jobs. Seriously though I am surprised at how many would seek to castigate these people when in fact in fact it was their government that allowed our jobs to be shipped overseas. It has been reported that under GW Bush 2.7 Million jobs were lost to offshore companies as there were no laws to protect the US workers, only the large corporations who have powerful republican lobbyists. see:

      August 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cecilia

    many people posting here have asked CNN to let them know how to help this family. There are so many families out there in the same bad situation. call your local Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, homeless shelter, food banks – most towns have so many needs when it comes to helping families, children, seniors – go on line and google volunteer opportunities in your home town – there will be a list of places – good luck and God bless

    August 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • InnerPeace

      Good Advice – we are all on the same team – I am heading to look for ways to help now. I would hope that it wouldn't take an asteroid bearing down on us to figure this out.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Francesca

    How can we help? Please let us know.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LuckyLady

    You're right -and as always the people who pay are the ones who had little or nothing to begin with. And if you don't see the connection, read a history book or two. Most people in this country get a lousy education if they're poor, and the possibilities for work are limited by the skills they lack. All you people who think everyone has a choice to succeed haven't had to struggle. You probably think the fact that you work makes you better but it doesn't – it just makes you luckier.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonFromNM

      So if you're born into a poor family you should just give up? Give me a break.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emeljay

      In general, you're probably right. But there is ALWAYS a way out. I grew up in an abusive home and on welfare and never went to college... but I bettered my life in spite of it through tenacity, courage, a desire to learn, and optimism. Not luck. So anyone can do it.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cougar12475

    I would hope that the public would pick up on several key issues here; not only the one that this article addresses but the issue addressed by a number of responses that have been posted regarding the story. The arguments in the country have become so clouded due to the talking points of both political parties that the arguments aren't even the same anymore. The fact is that there are people out there that are truly "struggling", people that don't know how they are going to make ends meet or where there next meal will come from. The right isn't targeting those people, the right is targeting the ones that take advantage of the system, and they are many in number, those that take when they aren't truly in need. I know those on the left think that government is the only solution, but look how many people have responded that are willing to help this family (and you can't count me in that group). I would trust the kindness of the human spirit to help those in need long before I would trust government. If so many people are "willing" to help those in need, why does the goverment need to force people to do so. The problem is the government (right and left) exploits families like this and uses that explioitation as an excuse to hand out more subsidies to those "in need". However we all know that the government could care less whether or not those individuale really "need" assistance. The more handouts you give, the more votes you get and the viscious cycle contiinues. Please, as a country, we need smaller goverment and bigger people, let us stop relying on goverment and return to helping each other as human beings. How can I help this family?

    August 24, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tonya

      Too long; didn't read.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Helping this family is very nice and compassionate, and I do not wish anyone to stop. But there are MILLIONS of Americans in situations like this. It is impossible for CNN to report on all of them, and the generosity of Americans will not stretch to millions of families.

      Churches no longer help anyone except their own, and the (extremely) few companies that give significant amounts cannot cope with the need.

      I would ask cougar12475: who IS going to help? If you do not want the government to do so, please list some other organization willing and capable of doing so. There are a few (United Way, Red Cross, etc.) but they are seriously strapped for cash due to the bad economy - otherwise they would be helping more people.

      If a government cannot help its suffering people, why have a government at all?

      August 24, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonFromNM

      This post is spot on! Thank you for being a voice of reason in a sea of nonsense.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • cougar12475

      Edwin therein lies the irony. Our politicians have been taxing their own citizens for two hundred years under the flag of "social welfare", however the number of those below the poverty level still increases. How can you place so much faith in goverment that, throughout the course of our history, has never once displayed any evidence of fiscal responsibility? The reason there aren't more people that want to help, is because there money is already carelessly wasted by the government. The same government (Republicans and Democrats alike) that damaged our economy, I would ask you, is that helping the poor? NO. Politicians and beauracrats make decisions based on their political survival, not on common sense, or sound economics. Yet you're willing to let them spend everyone else's money in the hopes they will do so wisely, if that's the case, speak for yourself, not for me.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry

      Helping the vast number of people like the ones shown here takes coordination and access to a vast amount of funds. Government is the tool to do the work but the funds come from the people. The issue is not the funds, its will the people demand a more equitable distribution. As a society we cannot afford such a level of inequality.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. InnerPeace

    And by the way CNN: I appreciate you reaching out to the local church for information on how to help, But I would like to help regardless of the dieties involved. I once got a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) when I was involved in a church food ministry that "made everyone dance for god" before they got any food. I would like to donate and know that the church isn't building a parking lot with my money.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      OMG. No pun intended either. That is awful... but believable.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Theresa

    I'd like to help them... She's taking care of an elderly Mom and a handicapped son. A little would go a long way for them.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mark G.

    I would love to donate as well, I have an exercise bike to give him and some clothes you can get at any salvation army or shelter, some nicotine patches and classified pages for mom as well. And the number to an assisted living facility for grandma, that the state will pay everything for. I too was born DIRT poor, and I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, joined the Army and stayed for 25 years,I rolled pennys to buy milk when I was a Specialist with a newborn and a wife, but i rose up through the ranks and nobody gave me a damn thing. I earned everything I got.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Did you earn your good health? Without good health you can't earn squat moron. She has health problems and is having to care for an elderly person and do everything for her. I doubt you'd be able to handle it.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      So... nobody helped you, so no one else should get help?

      You sound very bitter. Thank goodness not everyone is.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonFromNM

      @Jim, he offered to help. So in your mind what we need is a nation full of people w/ health problems? We need able-bodied people like Mark G who are self-made AND big hearted. Don't be so quick to call names at those willing to help those less fortunate.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Did I miss in the article where it said she smokes? I understand your position. Many of us have had it rough at one point in life or another. And, many of us didn't get much or any help during those times. That said, isn't the community coming together to help those in need the very argument that republicans make when it comes to why we should eliminate safety nets? What is wrong with CNN publishing the story and those who want to help, helping? Instead, isn't that noble and what many pretend to celebrate about being a patriot? I wish someone had been there to help you and I have had times where I wish someone was there to help me. Like you, I got through and will get through future tough times I'm sure. Since you know how it feels, why not show a little compassion?

      August 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gatelock

      Yes. And you left your compassion somewhere along the way. Maybe if someone would have given you something you wouldn't be such a... what is the word?

      August 24, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      WOW Mark. I feel bad for your offspring that you are teaching
      them to be a cold and cruel as you are. You want to have them
      put the elderly woman in an assisted living facility? What if
      she doesn't want to go? Since when did elderly people of sound
      mind lose the right to make decisions? Wait till you are older,
      and just hope no one want to put you in a home.

      And...nicotine patches? Really?! How on earth can you tell that
      someone smokes by looking at a photo? You must have a
      supernatural ability.

      So you want this woman to go find a job, huh?
      What part of the article that read, "
      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." did you not understand?

      She HAD TO QUIT her job to be home more. She WAS WORKING,
      and when she worked
      things were STILL hard for her..

      Good for you that you rolled pennies to buy milk,
      good for you that you earned everything that you got.

      Some people need help. If I was your
      friend, and saw you rolling pennies to buy
      milk I would have helped you...without judging you.

      I hope one day you are blessed with the gift
      of kindness, compassion, and understanding.


      August 24, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      one more thing mark....you did read in the article that she was widowed, right? Maybe things werent so bad till her husband died. Maybe she was a stay at home Mom with no skills, that had to go out and find work. Maybe the husband had a bad life insurance policy...or didn't have one at all. You just don't know.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry


      Do you really think you made it all by yourself? Who the he$$ paid for your service and supplied the needs for the DoD? You made a very difficult choice and decided to serve and for that we are all grateful but remember the pay and benifits are also not free. Was you child healthy? Were you the primary caregiver for your parent at the same time? There are time when we have to say this person needs help.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
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