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. Kurt

    Well I'm sorry, but I'd like to know what her disability is if she is getting an SSI check from taxpayers. I ran across someone the other day who was applying because they were "chronically depressed."

    August 24, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |

    I just LOVE it that, no matter WHAT the story, it always comes down to politics on these comment boards.... the Democrats blame the Republicans and the Republicans blame the Democrats. This is precisely why I am a registered Independent.
    If everybody got their heads out of their a$$es and just voted for the PERSON who would do the better job, REGARDLESS of which political party they belonged to, and if the politicians would just vote without considering what their "party" wanted, this country would be a whole lot better off.
    I worked for a member of Congress... her only question prior to a vote was "what does the President say?" so she could vote "his" way. THIS is how the country is run, people! Campaign promises mean nothing! It's ALL B.S! Our country is run with a "who-owes-who, old boy network, scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" system.
    When are we going to wake up and do away with this petty ridiculousness???

    August 24, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • fritzz

      Where did you register to be an independent or a cannot decider?

      August 24, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ObamaBinLaden

    How is this woman disabled? She has two arms and two legs...and she can drive a car... She can definitely work.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daelda

      Perhaps she has a heart condition? From the article it sounds as if she suffers from Depression. Is cancer, epilepsy, or AIDS apparent just by looking at someone? Maybe she suffers from PTSD? Not all disabilities are obvious, but that does not make them any less of a disability.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. fritzz

    Sounds like a republican to me.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SuperMom

    This is only one family...there are millions more like it! For instance I am a veteran, a single mom, and I have a master's degree in social work and I have been applying with no avail for jobs since January. We have had to look at things like this family as to what's the most important to pay and then whats left. I do not know how I will keep the car I have since I am behind in payments or how my cell phone will get paid. With no car and no phone how will i find a new job. I have applied to probably at least 150 jobs this summer. They seem to be going to the "more experienced" people. It doesn't matter who you are...none of us are immune. At the crisis center I interned at people would call and ask about the emergency food pantry because they "had never had to do this before." It only seems to be getting worse and until we all pull together and stop judging each other nothign will change for the better! All of the hateful adn judgemental comments are a waste of time, energy, and space. The world is so much bigger than your backyard!

    August 24, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ObamaBinLaden

      Masters degree in social work...well, there is your first problem... Why do people get degrees in worthless subjects and cry they can't find a job in their field? LOL...

      August 25, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. qrrsw

    The sad fact is there are so many people who are worse off than this family. Last summer we had work done at our home and learned that the two men doing the work (father and son) live in a broken down rv that they rent! it has no electricity or water. I later found out that they get water from a hand dug "well". They have no transportation so they walk to different job sites.

    After talking to neighbors I found out there is an entire development of people within ten miles of my home that live without electricity or running water on a daily basis.

    I don't think most people realize poverty like this is all around us, all you have to do is look.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frankie Christopher

      When you find out where to send help please let me know. I know what this poor woman is going through. My 1992-1995 was like this and I had wonderful friends that helped me. To whom much is given, much is expected.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • TeaBaggyDeliverance

      ...the GOP's Teabagger' Nation

      August 25, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jovirella

    I rather hope karma catches up with you.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. werthchampion

    I don't even know what to say. I feel sorry for them? I do! I don't feel sorry for them? I Don't!
    I worked my asch off – and no, not because I went to the ever blessed college that is the savior of all our missery – I was just lucky all my life, born after WWII the big one, a teen during the sixties, married, divorced, had to find a job and took the first job that came along, changed jobs a few times, was lucky enough to remarry many years ago. .
    If I had to do it all over again would I? I don't know, but I know for sure I would not be telling anyone that i live on a check from the government In my thirties when I was really really poor, I worked 2nd shift at a convenent store for minimum wage, on the weekends i painted the interior walls of an appartment building, once a week i delivered the ad bags to peoples mailboxes , and during the day and week I babysat. I didnt get a lot of sleep, I didnt have enough momey to buy groceries. then my last job lasted over 30years, the first year there i had 2pairs of jeans and 2blouses, I had to alternate, it was terriible, I dont miss that a bit..

    August 25, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Gigi

      The woman's son has just been diagnosed with autism, she is taking care of her 82 year old mother who is sick. You have no idea what she is going through obviously or you would stop berating someone who is trying to do the best she can with the cards she was dealt. That God you held a job for 30 years and had no problems. She wasn't as lucky. Poverty isn't a crime in our society, it is a disease. Stop trying to make people feel worse about themselves so you can feel superior. You are "superiocur" as my mother-in-law would have put it.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
    • TeaBaggyDeliverance

      Not every family is as blessed as you were. Sometimes it just comes down to luck. Is that a good reason to deny help to fellow citizens who aren't so lucky?

      August 25, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. Psychologist

    I am sorry to hear about the hardship. Wishing those who are affected only the very best. I am sad to see that despite downturns many continue to hack on others for no apparent reason. This will hardly improve the overall situation for anybody.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. N/A

    Do you not see between the lines here. There are more issues at play. Have some sympathy.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. ANDI

    Its called natural selection, I'm so sick of liberal idiots who want to help everyone at the disadvantage of American supremacy. Where is the line to who our society is forced to support? Shall we support everyone who makes poor choices at the expense of productivity and nationalism?

    August 25, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. nuri

    I don't see it as a problem not to be able to go out to a Jack in the Box or 7/11 or a movie. I grew up in a very rural area where none of those things even existed.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Gigi

      As stated above, you don't have Autism either! He is 16 and doesn't understand his world. You do. Stop making it a harder place for those less fortunate than you are.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • living a simple life is not proverty

      I dont see no prob of without car and cell phone either, consider we did ever have any of 'em back there 30 yrs ago? so what? can't we be satisfied just by a plain living? it'd be a blessing to be simple and back to the nature again.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    I have a decent job, nice house, nice car, money in the bank, and a retire by 50 plan. I realize now this can change literally overnight and I too can lose it all and find myself and my family in very hard times. I am grateful when I manage to get another day's pay as who knows when it may end. Sad what our countries (Im Canadian) have become and how the average family seems to be bearing the brunt of the economic downturn. I really wish I was born in the late 40's and enjoyed the good life like my parents. Now they are retired and by the time they pass on, Im sure they will be grateful they no longer have to witness the degradation of a once prosperous and optimistic society.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |

    Where is this boy's dad? Why is he not chipping in????????

    August 25, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Libertarian in Chicago

      He's dead! First paragraph mentioned widowed.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Skinner

      If his Dad is deceased, he may be eligible for SSA survivor's benefits if Dad had a work history. If not or if the SSA is small, then he should qualify for Temporary Assistance (or whatever his state calls their welfare reform program). Since the Mom is on SSI, she would not be part of the Temp Assistance case and thus the time limits wouldn't apply. That may at least get them some extra help until he is 18 or 19. He may also qualify for SSI or (eventually) SSA Adult Disabled Child, if Dad worked in covered employment and David is established as disabled in time – I think the cut off for that is age 21 or 22. The family may also qualify for Food Stamps – now called SNAP. I worked in this field for many years and normally encourage people out and onto their own, but this situation sure limits their self sufficiency. Best wishes to them. Please check out all the above listed benefits – something may come of it.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Sydney Australia

      If the boys father is dead, then the child would be eligible for Social Security Survivor benefits along with his mother being eligible for widow benefits.

      If the mother Katherine is on SSI then she would be eligible for medical assistance through her state and probably additional disability payments. Most states INCLUDE transportation to n from covered medical visits under medicaid.

      Also, there is rent assisatance, and food stamps. It sounds like this family is not using all the safety nets that are available. I wish them well and perhaps someone knowledgeable with their states benefits could counsel them.

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

      ...the dad's a pwt tea bagger

      August 25, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Barry

    One way to help this family, consider not voting for the TEA Party or Repubican candidates in 2012. This is the future based on their platform.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |


      August 25, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • sciihs 1958

      barry – this is life under a socialist president.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Good luck convincing the uneducated middle class that the Republicans and Tea Baggers really don't represent them.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
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