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. Fairgame

    Some people need to keep there negative comments to themself. My mother always taught her five if you don't have nothing good to say then just don't say nothing at all. Times are hard and bad for a lot of people. Have a heart you never know when it may happen to you or some one close to you. Be careful what you say about other people.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Charles

    My concerns for the family is great. One of my biggest concerns is the young man. Here is a young man that is 16 yeas old. Can't even get a treat from Jack and the Box.
    I have given money to people before that has signs out of work need money. People say they will just go buy unnessary things. I say to them well that is between that person and God. I am just so thank ful God has provieded me with everything I need. God Bless this family and God Bless America.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexasWombat

      Charles, if the measure of your compassion is that an obese 16-yr-old cannot get a treat from Jack in the Box (which is contrary to the visual evidence, BTW), I have to question what compassion means to you. So panhandlers' use of your contributions is between them and God? Is it limited to that? Do you think perhaps that God will hold you accountable to whom you have given this money that He entrusted to you? Even politicians and non-profits urge citizens to donate to local agencies or to charities rather than to street people (for good reason, many studies point out). Why is there this mass rush from judgement by so many people who would replace it with naivete? Stupidity is NOT a virtue.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jennyy

    Wow! what a crew.I would recommed mixing household cleaning produst with bleach.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mike

    So 'until recently' they were going to movies, eating out alot, had cell phones, had so much food the boy is obese, can afford a car, and they all get regular medical treatment, so much so that they can't get to the appointments there are so many of them. They live better than I do.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aud

      I doubt this. Just because the boy is obese does not mean they are "living well." I'm sure there are a lot more cheap, fast food places around their place of residence than healthy farmer's markets or places that sell fresh produce, especially without a car. Why not buy already-made fast food meals rather than bushels of veggies or fruit? I live in the same area, with the same kind of working class...or jobless...people.

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

    Capitalism is Darwinian, it isn't sanctimonious, it isn't giving, it isn't caring. It is the survival of the fittest. America is afterall capitalistic because that is exactly the way the American people want it. You come to America to get rich not so the elderly , sick and indigent will get cared for. In elementary school in the sixties in the US I and my fellow students were taught socialism was the great Satan, only much later were we taught correctly that socialism was utopian and if you wanted utopia you didn't choose to live in America.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Elizabeth

    Can I send clothing or gift certificates? Where can I get an address?

    August 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TexasWombat

    Believe it or not, I do not mean to be critical of or mean to this family. My suggestions were offered to bring some sort of immediate relief to every member of it, and the actions I proposed (having the son to join the labor force or the military) are fully within the power of his mom to choose; therefore, they would not have to depend on qualifying for any agency of the state. I only want the situation to get much better for all of them.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |

    I want to donate some money to them. What can we do to get their contact information????

    August 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tim

    Please be aware, any cash donations to this family will decrease the SSI she is recieving. She is on a program for the aged, blind and disabled that has income and asset requirements. Any cash will be considered an in kind support for that month and she could lose the SSI payment, and any Medicaid (Medi-cal) services they are utilizing. There are avenues to assist her and the family without affecting any government assistance they recieve right now. Mainly someone could set up a special needs trust for mom, and the son. As each person needs their own separate trust, this trust money can be used for supplemental needs only (not basic needs like housing or food) and cannot give cash directly to the person with disability. The trustee who would adminster the trust will need to assist the family with purchases from the trust. Search online for a special needs trust, and organizations that can assist. I do this work everyday, and would be happy to help.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Neitsche

    God? Really? I think God gave up on you a LONG time ago lady. Wake up.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. infomet

    Yes, they should get some help. The kid should be offered some help and a part time job.
    The lady is no dummy, writes very nicely, and could likely handle several types of jobs. Is there anything she could do from home? Please remember this story when you vote. Remember which party has worked to provide more medical support, better schools, etc. No social support spending could ever match what has been thrown away on ridiculous wars in the last few years!

    August 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karl

      Don't worry. The GOP has a very rude awakening coming in 2012.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ricky

    To those making such insensitive remarks, this seems to be the type of family that would be nice to "you" if you were in need or just needed a friend to talk to.
    To everyone else, it does my heart good to know there's still a sense of humanity & helping others out there.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gaby

    How can we learn more about how to help them? I'm a health care advocate and this family seems to qualify for more assistance programs than they are aware of. I'd like to find a way to share information about California's Medical system, transportation assistance, and even nursing home assistance. Maybe a way to get in touch with their church?

    August 24, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ricky

    you could offer a meal or two to the less fortunate. After reading your comment I get the feeling you're in need of help yourself.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tneilson

    Seems to me you are missing some brain cells or a million. Usually idiots are not very compassionate. Good luck in life with missing that trait!

    August 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
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