Kathryn Louise Blevins ’14 is a recipient of UDC-DCSL’s Cafritz Advocate for Justice Scholarship, a three-year full tuition scholarship awarded to entering students with excellent academic records and a demonstrated commitment to working for justice.
Ms. Blevins is a 2008 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. in International Studies and making Dean’s List every semester. She was also a member of the Sigma Tau National Honor Society and received a Presidential Scholarship from the University of Arizona. In 2008 she was volunteer head of the Campus Chapters Program for a local non-profit organization, and became President of the Arabic Club at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008.
After graduation Ms. Blevins accepted a position adjudicating disability claims for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the Disability Determination Services office in northern Virginia. Not only was she reviewing medical records but she was also making legal decisions, talking to applicants, and listening to their stories. Sometimes, though, she was obligated to deny an applicant’s claim for minor technical infractions. It was during this time she realized how incredibly unjust the adjudicative process was to people who were struggling with housing, transportation, and financial issues in addition to their medical and psychiatric disabilities.
Eventually, Ms. Blevins was given the opportunity to participate in a specialized program that advocated for SSI/SSDI on behalf of homeless persons: SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery). This became her passion. Ms. Blevins then became SOAR Disability Coordinator for the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services. Not long after working as a SOAR Disability Coordinator she saw the effect her program had on homeless people in her area. Kathryn sees the cracks in the system that allow homelessness to persist: the program entrance requirements that are impossible to meet without a stable residence, the limited political will to support homeless programs, and the impotent efforts to address the root causes of poverty and inequality rather than just the symptoms. Ms. Blevins plans on using her law degree to obtain a position advocating for substantive social and legislative change in the mental health and homeless services areas.