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. Jellomundo

    Try looking for the address of his school and sending donations to them in care of the school.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      I found her on Facebook. Deborah Anne Walker.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. B

    It is very easy to judge without understanding what people in poverty go through. Everything it's a cycle that affects lifestyle. I’m not trying to give excuses but I want to point out just a couple of things that may help you think before talking. There are not that many cheap healthy options in the grocery store, which forces people that lives in poverty to buy many process foods and fast food. If the child as Asperger's syndrome, he may not be able to work like another child that doesn’t have the syndrome. If available jobs are far, who is going to take him? There is no transportation in the home. In other words, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Just think a little before judging.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. JR

    CNN please post an address or a way to donate to this family. Money, gift cards, clothes (with sizes) for David & his mother. It is heartbreaking. I know there are thousands of families like this in America, but if I can help one in desperate need at least they can have some relief.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      I found her on Facebook through Jim Kavanah's friend list. (The man that wrote this piece). She is under Deborah Anne Walker. Please contact her and she can let you know how to help them.

      August 26, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Her paypal address is walkerdaw2@att.net
      They woul appreciate any help that you would like to give.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RUFFNUTT

    I'm very disgusted with all these hateful comments about Deborah Anne Walker and her family coming in here from ignorant Tea Partiers. They obviously have no idea of what it's like to be poor!!!

    August 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kaye

    She is on Facebook under Deborah Anne Walker. Send her a message if you want to help her. I found her by finding Jim Kavanagh CNN on Facebook and she is on his friends list. And please don't send her ugly messages....my Momma taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say...DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL!

    August 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Adam

    Wow...there are so many who have made comments that indicate that they somehow are undeserving of any help and to be grateful that they are not homeless but from what I understand from having actually read the above article rather than base some comment on what it appears from strictly a picture and/or a brief skimming of the article is that they are going through a rough time. The woman, Deborah, is doing all she can having an elderly mother to tend to along with a son that has equally demanding needs and yet those who made comments earlier seem to kick them down when they would be far better serving by shutting the hell up and moving on.

    She is not asking for a handout. A reporter has only brought attention to a very tough reality for a great many people in this country, far too many have found themselves really struggling to not just make it through one day but in believing that there will be many more tomorrows with something to look forward to that is worthwhile.

    If there were anyone more deserving of some anonymous help it would be her, she is doing all she can and the LAST thing she or anyone like her needs is someone to vent out their anger of their problems on her. It is such a shame to hear such comments as those made earlier but that sadly just shows they really do not comprehend her situation.

    In hopes of being able to contribute something to her efforts I would like to be contacted as I live relatively close to that area and think I can give something of value rather than take away the respect some have cowardly attempted to do.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • amber

      100% agreed, I sent her a message via FB, hope she reads it and allows me the humanity to send her some gift cards.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Hi Adam, I found her on facebook under Deborah Anne Walker. I have messaged her and she gave me her info. I'm sure that she would do the same for you. She also left a comment on this page...you could reply to her. I found her through Jim Kavanagh CNN on facebook. She is on his friends list. Hope this helps. Kaye

      August 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Her paypal account is walkerdaw2@att.net
      Thank you for caring!

      September 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Deborah Walker

    THANK YOU to all who are sending prayers and well wishes. And thank you for TRYING to get people to understand. It's hard for some people to understand things they haven't been through themselves. I don't get upset about the negative comments, I just pray for the people who write them. I especially wish to thank Jim Kavanagh for writing such a good story. Deborah

    August 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doogie Houser, Jr

      On one hand you are disabled...on the other you are looking for work...something is not right...

      August 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abu Bob

      At least you can afford high speed Internet!!! Thank God. What would you do without Facebook?

      August 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Maggie Davis

    There are many people in this world who are worst off than this family. However, poverty cannot be denied or ignored. There are very few people in this world who chose to be poor, and have their children teased because of the clothes that they wear. One thing about this family, they have been through some hard times. They can make it through any thing. It would be very hard for a rich, spoiled brat to stand the tests that these people have had to endure, without committing suicide. Don't judge until you are able to walk in their shoes. Your day will come.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Xplaning2Do

    Why did this blog just stop on 8-24-2011 at 5:11pm?, No more blog comments? Is there a limit on number- it's at 949 emails tally at top. How can we help? where to send money?

    September 1, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  10. Michelle

    CNN – we are still waiting for news on how to donate. I see you have reached out to their Church. Please get back to us once you have information.

    September 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Michelle, You can find her on facebook under Deborah Anne Walker. You can message her and get some info directly from her. That is how I found her and she is a very sweet lady that needs all of the support that she can get! Thank you for caring!

      September 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Her paypal account is walkerdaw2@att.net
      This is how I sent her something.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kaye

    Anyone wanting to help Deborah and her family can contact her on Facebook through a message. She can be found under Deborah Anne Walker, it looks like the church thing is taking a while. She can use all of the support that she can get! Thanks for caring!

    September 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kaye

    Deborah's face book link is right below the story....contact her and get her info. Also her paypal account is walkerdaw2@att.net

    September 23, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dianne

    How come CNN hasn't updated this situation for those who want to help!! It's been almost 5 weeks. I'm betting the reporter has moved on to other things. I'd very much like to help, but I'm sure I'm not the only one here who is very uncomfortable about sending money to an anonymous PayPal account, as suggested by Kaye. What is her church doing?

    September 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deborah Walker

      Our church is trying to work on some long term solutions for our problems. I can be contacted through facebook or email at walkerdaw3-cnn@yahoo.com.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kaye

    I contacted Deborah and she is really struggling! She is a very nice woman that has a lot to deal with. What she shared with the reporter was only a fraction of what she really deals with on a day to day basis. If you want to help her please do, if not, please don't judge her. She didn't ask for anything but is need of much. You can contact her on Facebook under Deborah Ann Walker...She will be glad to share any info with you that you need. Thanks, Kaye

    September 29, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. KcCritic

    All i can say is: welcome to my world. I could tell the same sad tale, the only difference would be the names. I feel bad for this family, I really do. I just have too much pride to ask for help. My family doesn't spend one dime on anything we don't NEED. I work 50 + hours a week, as does my fiance'. My son, who is 21, suffers from severe depression, my fiance' has rhuemetoid arthritis and works construction. Me? I'm a waitress, had triple bypass surgery 10 yrs ago. Ex hubby, of 24 yrs cancelled my insurance 2 yrs ago so I no longer see my cardiologist. I can barely afford to see my MD every six months, let alone pay for ALL my maintenence medications. When i have the oppourtunity, i work x-tra shifts. The economy is bad, and I have no set income, it's tips i rely on. I don't tell anyone at my work my situation, nor my regular customers. Stories like mine tend to be a downer to people. I could go on and on about how bad my life is. I feel better getting that off my chest!

    October 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      If you read all of the story, she didn't ASK for help!

      October 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
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