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. whatwouldatomahawkpayfor?


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

    FYI that was meant for jennyyyyyyy lol. What a dork she is

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

    CNN I think you should feature a story like this every week. People love to help others in our country in need. i want to know where to help. I go to church sales where you can find clothing and regular home needs. keep this up as a community service. Thanks for making me realize how fortunate I am even tho I don't have a lot!

    August 24, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Todd

    Hey Jennyy – always nice to kick someone when they're down right? It's quite possible David has experienced weight gain due to the medication he's on. As for calling him a "'tard," how about giving the kid a break – instead of piling more crap on top of him. He's probably struggling to do the best he can with the hand he was dealt – nobody likes being teased for the clothes they wear – I'm sure he'd like to have a part-time job, be able to go to the movies like a lot of 16-year-olds, – why not just acknowledge that the family is struggling, instead of insulting them?

    August 24, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. George

    Anyone making nasty comments about these people, unless you are VERY wealthy–you could be next.
    Things turn around really quick these days.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Suggestion

    For all the people who want to help, please remember to vote in every election, so we can change the trajectory of this nation to be more caring and supportive.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. K thomasson

    Please post how to help this family. I live in a nearby city and am fortunate to help and I would be willing to do so.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nita p

    You're insane. Why would any rational person wish a horrible death on the children of insensitive morons? You're worse than the people you're complaining about.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LWarden

    Yes, please let us know how to help this family. Would love to help however I can.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hannah

    While this woman and millions of others are trying to keep themselves and their families together in a meaningful way, the wealthy are giving 30 thousand dollar parties for their five year olds. Doesn't make sense does it. Those at the top party on, just like the 20's.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hannah

      Oh, and how about those 10 millions dollar celebrity weddings. There's money in this country, it's just reserved for the few at the top.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gambi

    God bless you and your family, you are a caring mother and daughter and deserve some relief from your struggle.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. leeintulsa

    We all know there are plenty of people with similar stories. How do they get on cnn to get help?

    Or is this one family just that special?

    August 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Spencer McDougal

    Its a shame that Democrats will destroy America, all in the name of the children.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fairgame

      Dems? You need to check them Republicans before you go there. Everytime a Republican is in office this Country ends up in a funk no jobs.

      August 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kurt

    My heart goes out to this family, it truly does. Good to know our Savior of a president is FIXING the economy, not making it worse.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mm

    I think the health care system takes advantage of the poor and elderly. I bet most of them don't need to be on half the drugs they're on. And if they didn't have to spend money they don't have on drugs they would have more money to buy food. This system sucks for those who can't afford it most.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
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