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. m43

    @ Do You Even Lift, that is none of your business, now you go do your work, NOW.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. w7rkd

    We are all one step from experiencing what this familly is going through. The roots of greed run deep and will keep on robbing us blind until we all fight against it.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Luek

    "David, now 16, is nearly 6 feet tall and 245 pounds........."

    At least David isn't starving! 6 ft tall and 245 pounds at only 16 and he feels deprived because they can't go out and eat junk food?
    If he dropped a few pounds it would do him good! He is obese!

    August 25, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. howard

    Its a shame, because people like this deserve a hand, but because there are so many people defrauding the system nothing is left for the people who need it.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. buxxy

    The son has Asberger's though...is he able to work with this condition? And how would he get to and from work if he could find a job? It's probably a pretty complicated situatio for them...

    August 25, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Fred Goepfert

    Acts 2:40-47
    And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
    Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

    And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

    Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

    So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.
    And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Want To Help

    Hi, I want to help but don't always know the best way to. So I end up contributing to Salvation Army or Amnesty International or local church etc.
    Can CNN run an article on what's the best way to help the most people in situations like this?

    August 25, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. mseikeh

    I suppose when sewing machine and textile machine were introduced, they were hailed as the answer to people needs. Cheap clothing would be more accessible. You no longer need to labor a day just to make one garment. And here we are some 100+ years later, in our POST-INDUSTRIAL wonder; Ferrari sales are up 20% (yesterday news) and a pair of jeans is not accessable......

    August 25, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Diann

    Everyone quit pointing your fingers at each other! We just need to help one another. I truly believe that our Lord GOD is forcing us to turn to one another for help and assistance because we've all been being selfish with ourselves! So,,,,lets just pick ourselves up and help one another!!

    August 25, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. sukibarnstorm

    So in the tea party world, Gramma's SS would be about half of what it is now, and mom should be out working. Son would just have to struggle in the regular HS because we can't afford to have a special program just for mildly autistic kids. In theory, the wealthy would "trickle down" their wealth to charitable organizations who would help take care of Gramma, and give them food and clothes. In reality, they would now become dependent on the charities which further diminishes them and mom would have to pick up the slack on educating her kid because he is probably falling the cracks in school. But she is exhausted from trying to hold down a FT job, taking care of Gramma and her kid and probably doesn't have the skills to give her kid what he needs. I agree that we have to stop paying for everything, but I am not seeing the wealthy give back the way they used to. Where are the Carnegies who put a library in every little town. The Rockefellers, who gave us our national parks, the other super rich who supported the arts and museums and symphonies. Oh yeah, that's right.....they need a bigger house in the Hamptons.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeffery

    Certainly my heart goes out to them; but, if their son weighs almost 300 pounds, as the article states, it doesn't seem as though they miss many meals. Perhaps if he were placed on a healthy diet, that could free funds up to purchase new jeans.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. steve

    they should move out from california. There are other places in the country that has more affordable cost of living than california.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. I cannot believe some of the posts here

    To Swimmer and Rizzo and the rest of the posts critizing these people: If you are like most people these days you are three paychecks from being like the people in this article. The teenager has Asperger's syndrome. Do any of you even know what that is? Do you care? Probably not.

    My daughter's and her husband had lost their job two years ago. They were on unemployment for two years. He went back to school and eventually found a job but she still has not. We paid their house payment for two years and helped out when we could but thank god I did not lose my job since my wife is disabled with serious disease (look that up since you were too lazy to look up anything else).

    Your mean comments are an example of most Americans today. Mean spirted, judgmental, hypocritical with no empathy for their fellow man or woman. You could care less whether the person beside you lives or dies. Its all me, me, me. And it is reflected in the politics of our Congress. It makes me ashamed.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. subilover

    The problem all over the US is that prices of everything goes up while there is no cost of living raises. Because of that, I now make less than I did 3 years ago. We struggle every single week and we both have jobs with 3 children under the age of 12. There are a million stories like this one everywhere.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. Amyrica

    The Salvation Army and Goodwill have a glut of clothing! Has she applied to them for help? I'm sure they could find some clothing for David

    August 25, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Where we are the Salvation Army & Goodwill only SELL clothes. There should be an agency that will help them for free. Transportation is the hardest part for most people. I live in a small city and am on the board of a non-profit that does this type of work. We have seen a 62% increase in needs over the last 3 years. My heart goes out to her.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Maggie Davis

      She does not have transportation to get to the Salvation Army. How can she apply?

      August 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Anyone wanting to help Deborah and her family can contact her on Facebook under Deborah Anne Walker. You can message her and she can tell you how you can help. It looks like the church route is taking a long time to get organized...she needs all of the support she can get! Thanks for caring!

      September 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
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