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. 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 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • william

      You Sir, are an idiot.

      Most likely no idea what a Fascist is, and just put the "Neo" in because it sounded cool.

      Tea Party = less government, not more government, moron.

      Please stay in Canada, eh?

      August 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. deedeee123

    Lots of people are asking: how can we help?? I want to know too – what can we do? It sure makes me proud to be an American when I see so many wanting to assist this family. And for the record, I have Asperger's & it's tough. Glad he's getting help – wished I did @ his age!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Stuart

    This is so sad, but this is nothing new in our society . if we all could do something for those in poverty and suffering , their pains and hardship can be alleviated somehow, may not be a permanent solution until government & society altogether can come up wih a well-thoughts plan to pull people out of misery.
    by the way, don't get so political, stop blaming China, that is way too easy. Goods come in and go abroad, that is the globalization., modern trade, however we could start by stopping giving money out to countries like Pakistan, is that really necessary ?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bek

    I also would like to help somehow. This touched me so much; we have a 21-year old son with Asperger's who is a big man like David. We've been blessed to receive assistance from our state which helps pay for our son's college courses. David should apply for SSI after he turns 18. Good luck, David; Aspie's can achieve their goals, too!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      Bek, you can contact her through facebook under Deborah Anne Walker or email Walkerdaw2@att.net which is also her Paypal account, This is how I found her.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. paul

    The really sad thing is that working people will be living like this some day.

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

      @paul – hate to break it to you, but they already are...

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

      Um Paul... we already are. I'm a single WORKING parent... similar sad story. But there are many worse off.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terri Kelly

      All the opinions aside, how can we help this family? Thank you from Minnesota

      August 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Renee

    I would like to help out too.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Indi

      Who can we contact to help this family?

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

      You can find her thru facebook under Deborah Anne Walker or email Walkerdaw2@att.net, which is also her paypal account. This is how I found her.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  7. Amy

    CNN, you're putting this child's face on the website, shame on you, he's still a child and now everyone at school knows his story!!!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      @Amy: If everyone knows his story, maybe some of the other children will stop teasing him. He doesn't prefer to wear womens' jeans; he is simply poor and has no choice. Children can be such basta**s.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brent

    It is a shame, but at the rate our nation has been heading the last thirty years, these folks will seem like the middle class compared to where most of us are going to be. We seem to have a government strategy to make our country a mirror image of Mexico. The few wealthy and their giant number of groupies are determined to follow this "Global economy" road to nowhere for the Average U.S. citizen, so that some billionaire can compete with a Saudi prince in how much wealth he has. It's so stupid, but it seems the sheep are content with following them to slaughter, so nothing is likely to stop this downward spiral, until the lord's groupies see that they have been duped, then it will be to late.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Copper's Donut Shoppe

      You have hit the nail right on the head. This has been the goal of the haves for over 30 years.
      The sheepel of the US believe the talking heads on tv ~ "rush said it, it must be true"
      Palin quits her post as gov. of alaska to make money and this makes her presidental material?
      Parry destroys the educational and social services system of texass and this makes him presidential material?
      Bachmann promises $2 a gallon gas and people cheer and believe her!
      Scott steals 100s of millions from the feds, gets to keep it and is elected the gov. of florida!
      Wing nuts say global warming is "junk science" and the world is only 4000 years old, man existed 3500 years ago with dinosaurs, and this makes them presidential material?
      Bigots vow to destroy Obama even if it means the destruction of the nation ~ and they are cheered on by the tea party!
      I am glad my time on the big blue marble is almost over ~ I don't want to be in the service underclass.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jett

    I found a Deborah Walker of Vista, CA using zabasearch.com. I suppose I could always call or send to the address provided and validate that it is "her"

    August 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. benji

    I dont understand why she dont apply for welfare. She qualifies since she has a dependent child.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. braindead head

    OMG Please tell me where we can send money! Quick! She really needs to get to another hairdresser fast!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Remember: to the Retardicans, these people are "unwilling to work" and "want to be poor."

    Retardicans: waging war on the poor since 1854!

    August 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Karen

    Would you please publish an address that things can be sent to – maybe not their home to maintain their privacy and what size does David wear? I have lots of good, gently used and even new things he is welcome to. Please try to share some info.Thank you.

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

      Karen, you can contact her thru facebook under Deborah Anne Walker or email her at Walkerdaw2@att.net She can provide you with any info that you need.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. 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 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JJAABB

    I was especially taken by the woman's comment that her family had to begin making decisions about what things to cut out of their budget, like the "cell phone." It certainly sounds like it has been about time to face that reality for a long time.........I suppose many would give her credit for cancelling her cell-phone account.

    This woman is collecting disability and whether she and her family were living in 1961 or 2011, her plight would likely be the same; disability cannot cover life's daily expenses. HOWEVER–she did say she had a part-time job in the past, which makes me wonder how she is "disabled" in the first place?? One thing there is NOT in this country is a shortage of non-profit/not-for-profit organizations dancing through the cracks of the tax system to provide families like this with FOOD, EDUCATIONAL SERVICES, FREE MEDICAL CARE, HOUSING ASSISTANCE, and the list goes on.

    I think it is appalling that CNN has used a story such as this to pull on the heart-strings of giving Americans and paint a picture of poverty and despair in this country in this dishonest way. There are plenty many MORE families who are underemployed, overpaying for medical care or going without because of high costs, have kids who may need tutors, etc. who just don't qualify for all the free hand-outs like the woman in this story. Those are the people who are suffering under our tax policies; not the welfare class like some of you have inferred in relation to this woman and others like her. Please! Do you really think she pays ANY taxes??

    This women needed a good dose of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" 20 years ago. At this point in her life, she can count on the government taking care of her while she contributes nothing. My kids NEVER get slurpies either; our money goes to Social Security to pay for people like her who don't and won't work.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Copper's Donut Shoppe

      you sound like a real fun person

      August 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry

      JJAABB:
      Have you ever tried to live and function on the programs your think exist? You do know state services here in CA have been cut back year after year due to budget shortfalls. People like you think we are doing all these wonderful things for the poor through our taxes. Wake up, that is a lie, our social net is in shambles and people like this family and others who are even worse off keep falling through. Taxes are at their lowest point in over 50 years and people like this take the worst hit.

      August 25, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
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