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. marie nadin

    I have cloths for David where can I send them

    August 25, 2011 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dr. Johnson

    I hope the wealthy can sit back after reading stories like this and continue to enjoy the comfort of their lavish lifestyles. God forbid they should contribute anything or, gasp, pay Clinton era taxes!

    August 25, 2011 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
    • amobius

      They have already done something productive like creating a successful business that hires people. What have these people contributed?

      August 25, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Margaret

      I don't think the wealthy bother reading these articles. When they do they say enough, all we hear are sob stories. The grandmother is hanging on, but needs assistance. How can the mother work and leave the woman home alone. Any of the complainers priced a nursing home? Most states have cut funding for home health care.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. Interested

    in donating clothes to the family. It would be helpful to know sizes and if there are any things they need in particular. We're in Carlsbad. Pls provide more info so we can help! 🙂

    August 25, 2011 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Interested

    in donating clothes to this family. It would help to know sizes. We live close by and would love to help 🙂

    August 25, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. Julie

    Anywho.com has one listing for a Deborah A Walker w/ an apt. address in Vista, CA. Wondering if this might be her.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. Superpal

    I am also struggling to make ends meet here living barely paycheck to paycheck as well, but as a single 35 year old geek, I feel positively lucky and so very wealthy with what little I do have,,, and so would give ALL of my extra clothes, games, and comics to that kid in a heartbeat. In fact come to think of it, since I cannot gift directly, I will be making a large contribution of these unneeded material possessions to the local charity in your honor. The nature of charity is that it starts at home, do something to better your own community.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. amobius

    wonder what its like to not have to work and still be able to get by thanks to the tax payers.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Margaret

      I don't think you would enjoy it.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:43 am | Report abuse |
    • chimera

      "amobius: wonder what its like to not have to work and still be able to get by thanks to the tax payers."

      Try it this way: wonder what it's like to not be able to work and to have to get by feeling like a leech on the tax payers.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. amobius

    The faces of state dependency.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. airtobreath

    This is Gods way of waying – jump off that bridge soldier of love. Come join me and leave this world. LOL – trash cant get any whiter than that. Next story--

    August 25, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. wargames

    Send thier asses to lybia and see how real poor people live. boo hoo i have no cable tv. boo hoo i cant get that lcd from walmart. Put a gun in that 13yr olds hand and have him sign up with nato and keep it real. what a load of crap.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. 19random35@gmail.com

    The 98% of America that isn't rich allows the top 2% to dominate affairs, because we don't get involved in politics, we don't inform ourselves on issues, and we just willfully submit to the rich. People seem to accept it as a law of nature that the rich should rule and have power, but it simply need not be that way. I say, to heck with the rich, we need to make laws that they hate, and force them to deal with it.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
    • ohbehave

      Ok, Mr. 19random, most people in the world see YOU as super rich.... you know... with your fancy internet connection and all. So go ahead and give up that ultra-luxury and send the proceeds to this family! You don't need to be generous with other people's money because you appear to have some of your own! No, don't thank me, you probably just forgot that you had such an option.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
    • montyross

      and what if the rich decided to take their marbles and go home, where would that leave us?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Where exactly are they going to go – the uninformed seem to worry more about the rich than the rich do. There are very few places on the face of the earth with comparable living standards with personnel income taxes lower than the US.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
    • RP

      Couldn't agree more. And as for the marbles, well, most shouldn't be in the hands of the rich anyway. They aren't the wealth creators, they are the wealth expropriaters.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kermit12

    AMOBIUS– "a negative net impact on society"

    Is there any humanity in you at all? I can tell which tax bracket you are from–the higher ups. Enjoy while you can, 'cause
    people like you (the HAVES) are gonna lose their tails in the new economy of the next five years.

    Maybe we will all learn that it is our duty to each other as humans to lend a hand. If we, as a whole, lended a hand to each
    other, there would not be families like this.

    It is time for people like you to get on board with being human.

    It is folks like yourself who are listed in the dictionary under "cold heartless b**turds"

    August 25, 2011 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      Heard that!

      August 25, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Good point!

      August 25, 2011 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kermit12

    Are you a Christian? If yes, then I wonder what Jesus will ask you when you arrive at the gates of Heaven.

    If you are not a Christian, then you are one of the sorries excuses for a body that breathes that I've ever read of.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. Yvonne

    is there a way we can help her?

    August 25, 2011 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. A. Jenson

    @ amobius.
    Some people fall on hard times, sometimes through not fault of their own. Yes she may have made some bad choices but is she less of a human being for it? What is wrong with our country, with our people when we look at the down trodden and feel contempt instead of empathy. What would your solution be amobius? Should we become like Nazi Germany and wipe out our undesirables? Shall we take away medical care for the poor? How about food assistance for children? Where do we start and where do we draw the line? I find it interesting that people like you amobius so often have much to say in the way of devaluing others but nothing in the way of solutions. So tell us what would you do?

    August 25, 2011 at 3:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Caring Person

      Thank you for speaking the hard truth. I am ashamed to say that I felt like mentioning Nazi Germany as well, but did not
      have the nerve.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      I cannot help it. Stories like these that yield less than kind comments just really hit home and hard! I have spent my life (soon to be 52) doing what I was taught I should do. Work hard, pay my bills, be kind...all the things that should make for a happy and worthwhile life. Yet, in the fall of 2008, I suddenly found myself unable to find work. I was a contractor in the tech field but had some very marketable accounting and supply chain skills outside of the tech field. Yet I couldn't even get a job as a walmart greeter! I was left flapping in the breeze and couldn't sell my skills to anyone anywhere. I suppose many would think I somehow did this to myself or I didn't try hard enough. Well let me tell all of you nay sayers...it can happen to you, too! When you get your head out of your butts and realize that what is going on now is changing the world we all know and it's not over yet, you might find a little compassion left in that cold, hard, exterior that you have created so that you can live with yourself.

      The have nots in this country are not there because it's a nice life to have and an aspiration that is top of the list for a lot of folks. There is suddenly an entire segment of newcomers to the land of the have nots who got there through no fault of their own. So if you still have...count your lucky stars and hope and pray that you do not join the illustrious group of have nots in this country who cannot seem to even get a kind comment!

      August 25, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
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