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. realmike

    At 16 I got a job. I'm pretty sure McDonald is always hiring. Just saying. Luck favors the prepared. If you can work , then do so.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Caring Person

      The McDonald's next to where I live in Nevada is not hiring. But then, I live in the state that has the worst economy
      in the U.S.

      In most states, I'd bet your right about what you said.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
    • brenda

      The young boy is autistic. It doesn't say how bad he is affected but enough to where he's in a day center. I don't think McDonald's is the answer.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
    • chimera

      In the article, it says she is disabled and has medical problems. Maybe she isn't able to do fast-food-store type of work.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Matilda Madsen Reed

      Okay, so say McDonald's is hiring. what if it's not within walking distance? How does she get there?

      Being a caregiver, at the best of times, is time-consuming and exhausting. Besides, she HAS been working until recently.

      It's not easy taking care of a son with Aspergers (aspies are NOT average teenagers) not to mention an elderly mother needs like you wouldn't believe. So unless you've done it, you have absolutely no idea.

      She's given up luxuries, so now what?

      We have got to stop allowing the 1% of the filthy rich in this country screw the rest of us out of our basic human rights - jobs that pay a living wage and healthcare, which breaks a great deal of families financially. That's the bottom line.

      So let's just stop seeing poverty as a character flaw, okay? It's social and political. It's the greedy politicians who accept large donations from corporations who do little for their communities, but rather find ways to add more fees adn charges to their services who have the character flaw. It's called greed and narcissism.

      Just sayin'.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      Uh...if you're not familiar with Aspergers Syndrome, educate yourself. This kid will likely not be able to work anyplace that requires a great deal of social interaction. It's a form of AUTISM. I have several friends within the autism society and your thoughtless comments simply tells me that you need to be educated.

      Trust me people, you cannot solve the woes of the poorest citizens in this country with comments like this and others as uncaring. Never presume that you are all wise and all knowing and your unkind comments are the answer to this family's prayers. The economy has cost me everything I spent my life working for. I am just hoping that no more are added to that illustrious list. Have a little compassion for your neighbor...

      August 25, 2011 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I hate it when teenagers think their opinion counts

      August 25, 2011 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Laurie

      Don't know much about autism, do you?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Reallyz

      So you support people on this fast food job? Do you pay bills envolving having a place to live or do you live with your mommy and daddy who pay the bulk of your expenses while you run off with your little check and blow it on nonsense? So before you act like it isn't a big deal and that anyone can get a job, think of what you have to accomplish with that income.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. dragon8me

    I spent a decade in a situation much like this until I got disability. Things are a little better but I don't know what to do about my son's education because the school took him out of special ed and he failed and they didn't want to keep him in middle school and talked me into "homeschooling" which I'm not capible of becuause of depression among other things. We live in a tiny Texas town and I believe part of the reason they didn't want him there is because he's not a Christian. Theres enough to write a book but I bet there are millions out there in even worse situations.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Caring Person

      I have a thought I'd like to share with you. I have had two friends who have had to do this, and it may not help you, but
      it is an idea: get out of Texas. Do some researching online to find which states would have the most to help you with,
      I do not want to start naming those states, they'll knock out my comment. I am not sure where you would get the money
      to move to those states, maybe you could email every church in an entire city and ask for $10 per chuch, and then
      rent a U-haul and go. Desparate times call for desparate measures. If you stay where you are, where will you and
      your son be in 5 or 10 years.

      I'm sorry the school system did what they did to you.
      I read you are not a Christian. I respect that, and still stay with my suggestion to ask churches for help. At least
      for your son's sake. As all parents do, we want better for our children than we had.

      I've listened to many crisis calls regarding depression, I have been on medication for 22 years and have no doubt
      I would be literally dead if I had not had intervention and medication. It runs in my family on both sides.

      I hope you find a way for your son. Maybe you could check around (in a new state probably) for a local boys club,
      and get him a mentor of some kind.

      Just my thoughts. Best of luck to you and your son.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
    • chimera

      per "Caring Person"'s suggestion. that state that always has the most snow and coldest winters.... yeah... look into that one! 😉

      August 25, 2011 at 5:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Matilda Madsen Reed

      Getting out of Texas might well help, but that takes money. That's also a tough call if you have a support system like family and friends where you live. Sometimes that's all that keeps you in supply of hope.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Caring Person


    The poor people in this country have NO food choices. I gave my personal opinion of what I thought of him. Yes, I
    called him a name. He is condeming those people. That made me mad. Wwwweeeeeellllllllllll, EXCUSE ME 🙂 smiling

    My comments do not come from a "dark place". They come from a place of watching other people suffer for a
    lifetime and not being able to do much about it, and I've done some things to help people and volunteered for
    close to half of my life. The poverty in this country is in our face everyday everywhere. Yet people go about their
    business as usual, not looking past what affects them.

    It aches my heart that you cannot see that these people simply CANNOT help themselves.

    What should people in this situation do without outside help?

    Ever read the statistics on suicide? I've volunteered on crisis lines for years, and 100's of people I've
    talked to are on the brink of suicide.

    Is that what you want? Without help, people become desparate. If we help them BEFORE that occurs, then
    the entire "system" saves money in the long term.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
    • less angry caring person

      These people can help themselves. I applaud you for your service to society but this is a fact. And why would you ask me if I want people to kill themselves? That is absolutely absurd. Of course I don't. When people are constantly given handouts being a victim is easy. Notice she mentioned all of the areas she needs money? Go ahead and send her some and help her! By all means. I'm just saying most poeple in these situations put themselves there and if you aren't from that background then you don't know what I am talking about.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      This is the most rediculous argument I have ever seen out of someone's head, less angry. Yeah, right. People of misfortune put themselves there. Well let me tell you from experience...a fourteen year career with a six figure income disappeared overnight for me. Just disappeared! I couldn't bribe someone to give me a job not even with some really awesome skills. I lost everything I had. EVERYTHING. And I tried all I knew and pulled every rabbit I had out of my hat all to no avail. I am a very intelligent and hard working person but none of that mattered when all this started in 2008. So to make a blanket statement that all poor people put themselves there and can help themselves is just a big fat lie you tell yourself so that you can continue to look down your nose at people. Your comments are for self gratification only..."let me kick a dog today" so you can feel better about yourself. Pfft...clueless!

      August 25, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. fukchristians

    lol yeah i would give her a new presidential dollar coin for a good gumming. and i agree with the 13yr old abortion – is there another way? oh btw christians are responsible for more deaths than any other religion or group kermit12 you moron.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. Angel

    Stay strong mama.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
  6. kate

    Crass comments about that woman and her family disgusts me. If you want to spew your venom, find something else to spew it on. If YOU DON'T HAVE SOMETHING NICE TO SAY, KINDLY SHUT UP.
    If there are ways that this family can be helped, let these ways be taken. Am sorry but I live nearly twelve thousand miles away(Lagos, Nigeria) , I would have loved to help.

    August 25, 2011 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sam

    when you read a story like this and in the same group of stories there is a "news item" about a wedding (Kardashian) that was over the top where many items from food to the dress itself were "donated" it makes you scratch your head and wonder. Why are expensive "freebies" available to the rich and individuals like those in this family left on the curb? Maybe our priorities are messed up and that is why as a society we are in monetary trouble. There is obviously money out there somewhere – but how does one "tap" into it to help those who really need it?

    August 25, 2011 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
    • kjfuller7

      It's simple... there is no profit angle to just give money away to poor people. Corporations supporting a Kardashian wedding are MARKETING to other people like the Kardashians. Poor people will NEVER be their customers. Sure the corporations have "giving programs" to help poor people and promote the appearance of a social conscience. But, if you give poor people food and rent money, guess what? Next month they need MORE food and rent money. I'm not slamming poor people... many people are affected by health issues beyond their control. I'm saying that once people have entered the "poverty cycle", it is damned near impossible to get out. The governments (fed & local) have been giving money away through welfare programs for more than 50 years... how's that working out? Maybe it's time for something radically new. This country just keeps kicking the can down the road and "praying" that things will improve, but throwing money at a broken process NEVER fixes anything... it only delays the pain...

      August 25, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. G. Thompson

    David is a minor child. Where is his father? Why is Ms. Walker not receiving child support for David? Ms. Walker should contact the Texas Attorney General's Office and attempt to collect child support for David. If David's father is deceased Ms. Walker should be able to collect Social Security for David. David is very overweight but his mother and grandmother look underfed. Why is this? Is he eating fast food? Even with his health problem David should be able to do stocking at a grocery/convenience store, at least on a part-time basis. Ms. Walker could purchase jeans for David at Salvation Army thrift stores. Clothes there are reasonably priced.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
    • kjfuller7

      OMG, you have obviously never had to consider using your last $7 to buy food or a pair of pants at a thrift store. MILLIONS of people have to think about situations like this EVERY month (sometimes every DAY). Have you EVER done a month's worth of grocery shopping on a single day and then ration what you consume so that it lasts 30 or 31 days??? Guess what? It NEVER lasts 30 or 31 days. I guess simple solutions and sunbeams rule your world. Say hi to the unicorns for me. K!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Jellomundo

      The first line of the story: "Widowed mother Deborah Anne Walker was struggling financially..." She is a WIDOW. Reading is fundamental!

      August 25, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. Let's be helpful please!

    This is not about rich vs poor. There are good people and losers on both sides of the equation as far as I know. As long as we keep pointing fingers, we get nowhere. Family, friends and the community (church, food banks etc) should be there to help this family. For whatever reason, it seems like all three have fallen short. I so wish CNN, when reporting on dire situations, would include ways in which we can help. Where can we send money/clothes/food? Just dumping a story on readers certainly helps open our eyes but does not help address the situation. Can you please complete the story by indicating steps people can take in order to help out?

    August 25, 2011 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. slickteigkcmo

    It is always the poor, elderly, disabled that get hurt the most during economic hard times. That's why everyone that "has" must help out in some way. Don't judge and think it's their fault "they were too lazy in school, don't want to work, etc" We all know now how many thousands want jobs but can't work....... those that have money these days are very lucky, but only blessed if they know how to share and care. Help out anyway you can folks, soup kitchen, donations of money or things, shelter, volunteer but "share". The material and financial blessings we have need to be shared and not hoarded selfishly. We have been fortunate to get material wealth so we need to give back. It will come back to you in ways you can't believe. Don't think you can hoard your wealth because selfishness will be punished, the other way you get rewarded. To care about the least of society is to care about all of society. You will help out yourselves in the long run as well as others. Please encourage lawmakers to not forget the poor and struggling, we have to find a way to not leave them suffering...... in this day and age it could be anyone of us on any day that finds ourselves at the "bottom". It is our chance to take care of one another like we never have before. Maybe that is the positive in the hard times, that we can shift our focus from me, me, me, to us , us, us (US.....all of US).

    August 25, 2011 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
    • kjfuller7

      Well said! I like you. K!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. KL


    Could you please tell me how I can help them? Please send me a reply to my email. How much that tag for her car would cost?
    Thank You.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |

    It seems there are a lot of kind, compassionate and generous people on this board and thats a good thing. The problem comes in when they are trying to be generous with other peoples money.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. Glen Duncan

    Been there. Was homeless, live om a tent for 3 month, brought a camper for $1,000 live in it for 2 years, brought a mobile home for $3,000, live in it for 3 years brought a house for $40,000 free and clear/ I did this while on SSDI getting $975 a month plus $145 in food stamps. I have an old car that everybody makes fun off that is 11 years old 250,000 miles on it paid $750 cash for it
    First, she needs to move to a city or state where it is cheaper to live.
    Second, if she gets food stamps, learn how to coupon.
    Third, go to yard sales for clothes

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


      You've selected to ignore some of the issues at hand and you don't know all the details. You're statements are very presumptuous. As someone who has been there, I would expect a little more empathy. There are several reasons that she can't accomplish every single thing you have stated, and there is a good chance she is already trying to do some of the others.

      Have some sympathy for your fellow human beings man. Simply because you feel that you didn't receive it doesn't justify not giving it.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Geeshgirl

      Objectionist, what on earth are you talking about??? Why would you think that Glen is lacking in empathy because he's provided tips that worked for him when he was in a bad situation. Reread his post, and try not to be so defensive when you're doing it. Glen's goal is to be helpful.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |


    August 25, 2011 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |

    There are a lot of kind hearted and generous people on this board. And, that's a great thing as long as its not with other peoples tax dollars.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      God knows we would not want the very richest to have to spend one dime of their windfall profits to assure America continues to be the greatest nation in the world which has always included caring for those less fortunate – remember the Give us your tired, your poor – aw what the heck that was a different time and different people right – now it is all about the almighty dollar

      August 25, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • vfr800cr250

      Yes, because we know it's very important that we follow the religious rights refusal to show any degree of compassion. It's ok though because all you born again christians go to church on Sunday and wear your religion on your sleeve. That means you don't actually have to try to live a good life, right? You just go to church, act all holier than thou and you're good. I'm sure Jesus would be proud of you with all that care for your fellow man.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
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