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. Janet

    How can I help this family..?

    August 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. patricia

    please provide information as to how to help this family.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. David in Los Angeles

    I'll pay for her car tags renewal. I don't know how to get in touch with her though. Can someone from CNN contact me?

    August 24, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • HEIDI

      DAVID you are a sweet heart...!

      August 25, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. Evie

    I do feel for the 13 year old boy. This is not his fault and as a child, he deserves decent clothes, food, and medical care. As far as the mom, I can't say for sure but God helps those who help themselves. Where's the child's father? The mom is standing in the picture so I'm assuming she could work to some degree. We all get depressed but if you don't put 1 foot in front of the other, no one will do it for you.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      Deborah is a widow; the child's father is deceased.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • WhatTh?

      If you re-read the article you'll see that she is doing everything she can, her mother cannot get on by herself, her son is still in school and her husband has passed away. Did yo sleep thorough this one?

      August 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GEM

    To IrmoAquaMammal: Where in the world did you get that she smokes??!! You are a MORON!

    August 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heather

      Skin and body habitus are classic smoker.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pleiva


      August 25, 2011 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Laurie

      Maybe because she looks like a walking cigarette??

      August 24, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • weesnaw

      haha- my thoughts EXACTLY. 😉

      August 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kelley Giffen

    For all those wanting to help, check out Modest Needs. They constantly do things like this.

    We're in a some what similar boat, a disabled Veteran and his spouse. I work some thank goodness... but we had to cut some things too.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Penny

    As home health care giver, she should be able to get paid to care for her mom. Medicare or Medicaid would fund moms care. Doesn't the son also qualify for SSD?

    August 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shirley

      You are so right on, Penny!! Go to CNN to make sure they check into that for her. 🙂 You go girl~!!!!!

      August 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • mcg

      Medicare and Medicaid do not fund custodial "long term care".

      August 24, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I think your idea is great but it might be a conflict of interest having a family member get paid for caring for their loved one. I am not sure 100% sure though.
      As for getting to Dr. appts, in my state if you have medicaid you can get a free ride either by bus or taxi, it just has to be set up ahead of time, to appts.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • JX

      Wow Heather I assume you paid Taxes? You know taxes takes deduction for medicare and such?

      You know that even private health insurance will pay for inhome care right?

      A profession nurse will be paid 8x as much as what the daughter will be paid. It is actually a cost saving measure to pay the family members minimal amount as opposed to pay up the nose for professionals.

      And if you think taking care of ill people is easy, you obvious have never taken care of someone who is sick enough to require constant home care.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff Carver

    I would love to ship the son clothes. We have a clothing consignment store in Florida. All I need are his shoe, pants and shirt sizes and I will ship him a box full.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shirley

      Don't stop here, Jeff!! What a great idea. Get in touch with CNN for the info to make sure. 🙂 Cheers to you for your sharing and caring too!

      August 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke

      Very cool of you Jeff, I hope someone responds to you to get this done. I think thats whats sad about America, so many people want to help those less well off, like this article, but have no idea how to go about doing it. Why not leave an address even at CNN where we can send donations etc.... for the people in the article. Kind of makes most of us feel useless at the end of it.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chris in NC

    I know very well what the boy is going through. I was a homeless kid [with my sister and mother] for 2-1/2 or three years when I was in 7-9th grades. There ARE NO MEANER SPRIRITED PEOPLE than junior high school kids. When you try to survive economic hardships like this kid – our spoiled brat suburban brats of privilege are the worst to deal with. I am sure he will be much stronger in character as a man later, but that's a dry compliment given from where he's standing now..

    August 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sharon MacGregor

    How can people help this family if they want to? CNN should perhaps provide a link or something where people can send gift card for clothing, or practical needs. With this economy - and the way our social security system is....many people will be living like this if American's don't step up and help their own. With the exception of the uber rich (and even some of them), we could all end up in a scenario like this with just one disaster (and a lot of people it would take even less). So don't judge....

    August 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shirley

      Amen to that, Sharon, and a brilliant idea. Get in touch with CNN and don't stop here. Wonderful, wonderful idea. I would even text money for something like that.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Walker

    What a crock, there's not 1 chance that fat kid would fit into her 2 pack of Kool cigarette smoking white trash jeans anyway, she looks more like 68.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reader

      It was in 2008 that her son wore her jeans, not now at 245 pounds. Read the story, Walker, and take a humanity pill.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • GEM

      Walker and Heather, you are both evil.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robita

      Get off the board Troll.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. musheded

    Please CNN tell these folks that they can get CalFresh (food stamps) and for a family their size they could get enough for about $400 per month in groceries. Yes you can get food stamps AND social security and/or social security disability. Ms. Walker can also get money from the state of CA for being her mother's primary caregiver, and yes it is only a stipend but it sounds like every little bit would help these folks. Please let us know a way we can contact them, like a PO Box set up by CNN perhaps that would allow people to make donations of clothing or a little bit of money to help them out. There but for the grace of God go all of us.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shirley

      Hey, musheded, don't stop here! Make sure CNN sees what you have said. Email them and don't stop until they get back to you!

      August 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Turtle

      You can't get food stamps in California while you're on social security of any sort. I had a friend living with me who got $600 a month on SSD/SSI, and they wouldn't approve her for food stamps because she was apparently expected to be able to live on that.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Angel phoenix

    The gov has allocated over 3 Billion to stalk the disabled and poor. NWO in action to traffic and control humans. Very sad future for America.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. lah925

    Where can I send donations? How else can I help?

    August 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sharon Spangler

    None of your business what she does in her little spare time that she gets for herself. We live in America and there are
    people better than we are to help them or who ever needs help. Comment was uncalled for.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
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