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. Heather

    This is a sad story, but unless I am missing something-no one is working and they have a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, a car and medical care (lots and lots of medical care). She is unhappy because they don't have nicer clothes, car tags and cell phones. If they are not working, I assume they are not paying taxes, so how exactly are they "paying" for the downturn? My son also has Asperger's and can't get a job, (he can't even get an interview) but it sounds as though the educational opportunities David has are much better than what my son had-and it's all free for this family. I wish them luck, but I don't think the government owes everyone cars, cell phones and Nikes, or plus size jeans because they're eating too much. (Also I agree the likelihood of cigarettes being one of the things they are not yet giving up is very high.)

    August 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Citizen Rights

      Your ever tried living on food stamps?? Or see the housing you can get on Welfare??? Looks like allot of things could be going on, but do you have the right to throw stones.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • nickenick

      ANOTHER BRAT No one working did you take care of your sick child or elderly mother, i guess not or you know one of them is working her butt off.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry

      Read a bit more carefully. She lost her job because her mom needed her to care for her. The tags allow the car to be driven legally. The car is needed to receive medical care. Seems a few dollars from those of us who are fortunate tp cover the tags would help alot. The son has little to no prospects for a job in a good economy. Now people on his list are compaining that these people actually have food and aroof so they are not that poor. Just how poor should anyone have to be in this country? Some of us really need to take a look at our priorities. If we had adequate adult home health care this woman could have a job. Now everyone who is disable is gaming the system. I guess you never met someone who lost their ability to work. I hope that no one would ahve to face these conditions but you might benifit if you learn a bit of compassion.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. Robert

    Clearly, the solution to these people's problems are to decrease taxes on the super-rich.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Communapitalist

    Communism vs. Capitalism – Neither one works for the benefit of all, but when it comes right down to your country's Tea Party and Republican Party, from a Canadian point of view, your Tea Party and Republicans are trying to turn your nation into a neo-Fascist dictatorship. This is truly a sad day for the USA, once known as the greatest super-power on Earth.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jessica

    Make sure you apply for all the aid out there, The county social services dept. can help point you in the right direction. Don't forget food stamps either.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shelby

    Please let me know how I could help this family.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • toddger

      I want to know how I could help them too !

      August 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I am one of 6 kids in my family and have plenty of clothes to give(3 boys similar in size). What is the address to send to them?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      I live in Carlsbad, not more than 15 minutes from Vista, and have three brothers aged 19 to 24 who goes through tons of clothes on a monthly basis. I would like information on how I can get clothes to her son, and also help her get her car registered. Please give us information on how this can be done. Thank you.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Contact her on facebook under Deborah Anne Walker and she will give you any info that you need. Email Walkerdaw2@att,net. That is also her Paypal account.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Laura

    Would appreciate info on helping this family. If we all reach out when we are moved to do so, we can make the lives of others a little easier.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sami

    we all are already helping this family, and at least 10k others in worse situations, by paying taxes which funds her SSI and supplements her mom's social security. We (people supplementing her incomes) have also had no cost of living increase, plus millions of us pay our own child and mom's prescriptions and doctors appointments costs.

    Seems there is Adult DayCare for her mom and paid education for her son so she COULD work......she doesn't have it so bad.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • CT

      Adult Day Care won't take her mother for appointments and how can she work when she can't drive the car because she can't afford the tags? Yes, it's always easy to point out what other people could do when you aren't in those people's shoes. I don't know about where she lives but here in Northern California, all of the Adult Day Care centers have been CLOSED permanently because the funding for those programs have been cut.

      So before you say that she doesn't have to have it so bad why don't YOU go live her life. Then you can tell her how she could do better.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry


      Are ther no prisions? Are there no workhouses?

      August 25, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. jaydee

    Irmo, is she eating too much too? man youre sick

    August 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Keith

    Tell us how to get help to them.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. R. N. Johnson

    As many websites as there are, I wish there were a way to donate to people individually. In a scam-free environment, of course lol, but like, through paypal or something. Click a button and it goes to STRAIGHT to the person in need (as apposed to through a bunch of middle administrators eating into the amount being sent). Cuz this is insane.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Knucklehead

      What would you call it? Helpbook? MyDonation? YouGive?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      Have you looked at Kickstarter or Chipin?

      August 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      contact her thru facebook: Deborah Anne Walker, I did and she gave me her paypal account: Walkerdaw2@att.net. Check it out.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kelly

    Wish there was a mailing address to send help for her and her family...

    August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Contact her thru facebook: Deborah Anne Walker. Message her and she can give you any info that you want. I did. She gave me her Paypal account. Check it out.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. WantToHelp

    If someone at CNN wants to share information on how to help this family, please email me on how to help.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Cantact her thru Facebook...Deborah Anne Walker. Message her and she will provide you with any info that you need. Her paypal account is Walkerdaw2@att.net. Check it out with her.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeanne

    What about food stamps? They should quality. They should also visit Catholic Charties

    August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Margaret

    Its really wonderful to see how many people want to help. Obviously an article like this will have some of the standard remarks about how its their fault that they are in this situation. But I'm seeing many more comments that are compassionate and understanding. I may not totally lose faith in humanity yet!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jett

    How could I help this family? Is there an address that money or "things" could be sent to?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Contact her on Facebook under Deborah Anne Walker. message her and she will give you any info that you need, 🙂

      September 29, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
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