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. Leigh Ann

    How do we help her if we want to?

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

      I would like to send some money for the son to get new clothes – my son is the same age, and I know how important those things can be. Could you please provide an address CNN?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Islandchefin

      I would also like to help this family....where can I donate CNN? How do I go through the proper channels? I don't have much...but I would like to help...clothes, money, etc....it's all about karma baby...

      August 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Opinion

      Does any body know that as a caregiver the mother should be geting a paycheck? Based on the amount of work she does for the grandmother she should be getting a pretty good amount ( the current rate is about $11+/hr) in addition to SSI and disability payments. This family should be collecting in total about $ 3000per month. It is not a lot, but enough to process registration fee. What is wrong with the kid to get a very part time job or even start to volunteer? I think he is growing in the atmosphere of self pity and depression. This story is very sad and scary because it could happened to anyone. This country is too rich to let down it's own citizens.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Bash

      Medicare does not pay family members who take care of you. You have to qualify for home health care and go thru an approved program.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Matilda Madsen Reed

      This is for Opinion:

      $3000/mo for 3 people, 2 with special needs isn't much, and I live in a part of the country with fairly low cost of living.

      Not sure where your getting your $3k quote, Opinion. A home health care giver only nets about $1500 a month. Slightly more maybe. Under $50. That's not a whole helluva lot of money in this economy for one person, much less 3.

      Can the Ridiculous Right stop worshiping Ayn Rand already?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Deborah Anne Walker on facebook....message her and get her info. Paypal account is walkerdaw2@att.net

      September 29, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Liz

    This is heartbreaking... I want to help. How do I get in touch with the author of this story so I can reach out help to this family?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • 245lbnPoor

      Which part of it is ? the kid looks like he is being over fed they have a roof over their head and plenty to eat in a lot of places in the world this is all people ask , lack of slur-pees and movies cannot be considered as poverty, wow i can't believe ppol are so spoilt, when i was growing up we got a can of soda once a week wore the same clothes or years together washed my Dad's car before we rode in it, now at age 34 I appreciate what our dad taught us about hard work and money wonder what these people are complaining about living on public money

      August 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • allimc

      @245lbs- that is a very crass statement. There is a good chance that this young man is on mood stabilizing medications (not talking about your run of the mill SSRI antidepressants) and virtually all mood stabilizing meds cause significant weight.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Liz, you can find Deborah on facebook under Deborah Anne Walker, Her paypal account is walkerdaw2@att.net . You can message her and she can give you any information that you want. This is how found her. The man that wrote this piece is Jim Kavanah CNN on facebook also.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Concerned

    Is there a way to make a donation to this family?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. FauxNews

    Not sure why everyone is surprised about this, the US is turning into a Third World Nation. Even the toothpicks are imported from China.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lmc

    Judge not......

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

      Agree...

      August 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • sciihs 1958

      If they need my money, if they ask for my financial help then I have every right to judge their situation. Live with it Imc
      If you have experience working in the poverty areas you will know that 75% of the time you do not get all the facts until you dig a bit deeper.
      .

      August 25, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • SayWHAT

      I'm sorry, I think you missed the point that he has a form of autism and is in treatments? I hardly think he can also be
      out pushing a mower. Silly person.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kate

    That was uncalled for.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pray to Jesus and go to church

    Get involved with church, do not be afraid to ask for help. Ask state/county for an exception so you can drive the car.
    This is a mess, we are too rich of a country to have this suffering in our borders

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

    Leigh Ann – I am willing to help. Looking to get some information from the correspondent so that we can get Walker some relief. Any doctors in the Vista California area who can help this family? Most importantly, Walker needs some relief after all that she's been handling. If we can get 3-5 people together we can bring a lot of temporary relief to this family. I am ready but need some more information. Thanks.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah01

      I think CNN will end up putting some information out there either on line or on one of their broadcasts. There are too many people that want to help. God bless you, Utsav....

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

      Contact Walker on facebook: Deborah Anne Walker. Message her and she will tell you how you can help. I got her paypal account from her. Walkerdaw2@att.net. Just contact her.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Terri HIdock

    My heart breaks for this family . There are billionnaires in this country that could help these people. I have written to Warren Buffet to help my family of which my sister worked for him for 17 years and got sick and now she is out of work, no money, no car, no health insurance and very sick with Lupus but Sunshine Foundation won't reach out to call her to try to help which I have written to them, the President and Bill Gates, of which both Gates and Buffet know her. This family also needs help and there is billionnaire's who can help. I am begging, by the grace of God, that someone reaches out to them, and I hope that the Sunshine Foundatoin will also help my family. It's been over 6 months of asking and asking and still no results. Very sad. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lmc

    Ms. Walker might be able to get paid for providing the home health care for her mother.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah01

      That's true. Her mom might also be able to qualify for a VA benefit if her husband is deceased (her mom's) and he was a veteran, and mom's doctor's have said that she cannot live by herself. My mom qualified for $1742 a month. She cannot live alone anymore since she became disabled and confined to a wheelchair over a year ago. That benefit really helps her.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff

    I know the cost of living in southern california is super high. That said I would think that David needs to get a job to help the family out. Also they might look into a nursing home for the mom as I think there should be some places that can help that way David's mom can get back to work. Life is a struggle and it is going to take combining resources in order to make it. Southern California is probably not the best place to be from a finicial stand point and I'm sure they dont have the money to move.

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

      Did you miss that David has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (part of the autism spectrum)?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      Did you not read the article? David has Asperger's, which can make it very difficult for him to handle the most minor social interactions, let alone hold down a job.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ssggoke

      It is more important for the child that he focus on his school work so that he can get a better quality job once he is an adult. I teach adults who were unable to get a good education when they were younger. Losing out on education is not a little thing, my students exist on determination alone. I am very impressed with the ones who make it through 2 years of college after working with me, but most of the students just can't recover from the burden of a poor, or non existent, high school education.

      Too many of my students stopped school in order to be caretakers of other family members or to earn money for their families. Choosing this route just locks another generation in poverty.

      It is very important that the child is able to take advantage of the services available to him when he is young. The services will not be there when he is older. He should concentrate on school and his mother should not worry about earning the money for jeans if she can get him to do his homework.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah01

      So who's gonna pay for the nursing home? Medicare doesn't pay for it unless you're almost dead. Maybe you haven't been to one of those places lately.

      August 24, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Margaret

      What job? Even unemployed who are no longer getting unemployment are competing for the jobs at McD's. I read the articles that students had a hard time finding any part time jobs this summer, adults of all ages needed them. In many places it is illegal to hire kids to use running machinery: lawn mowers. They have to have a food handlers license for work in restaurants. The newspapers don't even hire kids now, since some of them were murdered on their routes.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kyja

    My heart aches for people like this. I lost my job years ago, but am fortunate that my parents took my family in and can help out while I still look for work. I know exactly how she feels about having to explain to kids that we can't afford to do things they want to do. When 200 people apply for the same job at a gas station, they want someone who can work the night shift and won't use benefits. So it's unlikely they'll hire someone with kids. Every day is a struggle for those of us in need. Sadly, the politicians in Washington don't get it (especially the GOP who are supposed to be Christians!) that their petty sniping doesn't help.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Liberal and Proud

    I'm tellin' ya – The Re"thug"licans and Tea Baggers 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, well, you may as well change the name of this country from United States of America to the United States of Somalia.

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

      Perhaps next time Obama plans a vacation, he stays in washington and donates the cost to charity. With secret service and transportation it has to be at least $500,000 a trip

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

      Right Steve, that $500,000 would really put a dent in the $4,000,000,000,000.00 deficit Bush racked up for us.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matilda Madsen Reed

      As Severinus said, let's not forget who screwed up the economy in the first place. George Walker Bush. Party Boy took us from a nice crisp black to deep red. It's a fact. Look it up. And wasn't it Reagan who said debt doesn't matter? Typical.

      "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." (Santayana) So let's cut the denial, Righties. Your boys screwed up not just our economy, but the world economy. Now a grown-up is trying to fix it against unreasonable opposition (search "Southern Strategy). When you guys can grow up enough to think of your fellow Americans instead of how you can pad your pockets and egos, then Congress might be able to improve things.

      Meanwhile, it's Obama against a pack of elitist rich kids in Congress persons' clothing. So he's earned the right to a vacay. Way more than Bush ever did.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. raven

    @Rick: I think youre confusing handOUT with hand UP . This lady sounds like the type person I would want in my corner: loyal,loving and optimistic. I hope she gets all the help she needs .

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

      Raven, I agree – these are the kind of people we need workin in our work forces, she is a fighter... Does anyone know how we can get the information from CNN to get this family some help?

      August 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matilda Madsen Reed

      Beautifully said.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Corvus

    This story will be repeated thousands and perhaps millions of times, as the conservatives succeed in transforming our society into a real-world version of 'Atlas Shrugged.' For them, profits matter more than people.

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

      How are the conservatives responsible for this?

      August 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • TOONCES

      Uh.....news flash: this country has been under Democrappic control for almost three years now......

      August 25, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
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