Welcome to my blog!

As the home page says, my name is Kathryn Baer. I retired, after more than 30 years as an employee and consultant who specialized in public policy issues. I did research, analysis and many different kinds of writing to support advocacy at the federal, state and local level.

About ten years ago, I had a moment of truth. For a long time, I’d been telling myself that I ought to act on my concern about homelessness and poverty. Then I learned that my sister had had a seizure. And I realized that I didn’t have all the time in the world — maybe almost no time at all — to do what I felt I should.

So I began working, on a volunteer basis, for a large charitable organization that serves homeless and other low-income residents in my home town, Washington, D.C. I’ve since shifted my focus to support the progressive advocacy goals of both local and national nonprofits and their coalitions.

This blog is now a major part of that work — an effort to share information, foster dialogue and encourage action to improve policies that affect disadvantaged people here in the U.S.



25 Responses to About

  1. Thank you, Kathryn, for your passionate and informed advocacy to create a far better environment in which we all can live and thrive.

  2. Tim says:


    Great blog. Could you point me to where I can find more information on the District’s Housing First plan as well as Mayor Williams’ 10 year plan? Lots of good analysis here but am looking for the actual plans written by the DC gov’t regarding chronic homelessness. Thanks!

  3. kathrynbaer says:

    Mayor Williams’s 10-year plan, Homeless No More, is available as a download at http://www.ich.dc.gov/ich/cwp/view,A,1389,Q,575102.,ichNav_GID,1834.asp.

    I don’t know where to find anything comparable for Housing First. The closest I’ve found are two summaries of draft Production Plan for Permanent Supportive Housing. One is an official summary downloadable from the same page as above. The other was prepared by the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. The download for this one is http://www.ich.dc.gov/ich/lib/ich/pdf/psh_production_plan_summary_wlch.pdf. In short, as so often, a document that should be easily available to interested District residents isn’t.

  4. Adam says:

    Great blog.

    Do you know the current status of the TANF Emergency Fund extension?


  5. Kathryn Baer says:

    As you’ll soon see, I’m about to post an unhappy account of the jobs/tax extender bill the House passed on Friday. However, it’s not all bad. Among other things, it includes an extension of the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund through FY 2011, with an additional $2.5 million.

    The bill now goes to the Senate. And what will happen there is anyone’s guess. If you’ve been following the saga of the Emergency Contingency Fund, you know that an amendment to extend and replenish was blocked there on a technical point.

  6. krubenstein says:

    Great Blog! Thanks for all your information and advocacy. Have you checked out http://povertyscorecard.org/? It would make a great post!

  7. Kathryn Baer says:

    Thanks for the tip. I took a quick look at the scorecard when it was first released. Decided not to post on it -— mainly because I didn’t think I had anything to say except that it was out there. I also wasn’t altogether comfortable with the selection of key votes.

    Maybe I should take another look when/if things settle down on Capitol Hill. In any event, it will be very interesting to see which bills the Shriver Center chooses for key votes this year.

  8. I would like to know more about the budget WIC is using to help recipients and grants that could help fund WIC in case the government cuts sooner!

  9. deborahagus says:

    Hi Kathryn,
    I run a non-profit -Behavioral Health Leadership Institute and work with very poor and vulnerable populations. I am collecting stories of injustice that our social worker encounters every day in her work with the client. the injustices are perpetrated by the legal system and administrative agencies. The results are not only tragic for our clients but exacerbate long-term problems creating poor health outcomes and other problems related to poverty and crime. I am collecting the stories and trying to figure out a way to educate others.
    Also, for the coming election I am trying to join an effort to create a national “PAC” type group of people living in poverty, homeless etc. I think that if enough register and band together, maybe they can have some clout.
    Any ideas?

  10. Kathryn Baer says:

    We certainly do need stories. Voter clout too. I’ll get back to you with some ideas via e-mail.

  11. Andreah says:

    What about the workers who are independent contractors through Medicaid Waiver services? Medicaid sets a standard rate for providers/ independent contractors, which is usually sufficient, until you get involved in the Adult Family Living (part of IO Waiver in Ohio). Medicaid, the state DJFS, and state DD automatically calculate “natural supports” thus lowering the rate that state certified providers can bill when providing services for family. Even if the independent contractor recieves low income assistance with food, medicaid, and unemployment- the state still considers these natural supports in order to justify paying certified providers less. The state’s proposal for my contract when providing 24/7/365 care for my developmentally disabled sister is less than $4.50/hr. To make this an even better story, I still have to pay 12.4% social security tax, 2.9% medicare tax, atleast 15% federal income tax, 3.52% state tax, and 2% city tax as a sole proprietor/ business owner/ independent contractor. This leaves me with nothing to provide for my sister and her needs, let alone my own family (who is on state assistance already). Where is the answer to this problem? Please contact me so we can fight together!!!!!!!! plantparadise@ymail.com

  12. raluca says:

    Join the Crossover’s Research on Policy Modeling workshop on 28th of January in Washington DC http://bit.ly/V3V6yf

  13. Karen says:


    You might be interested in this TEDx talk. The talk was supposed to be on gratitude, but this woman made sure she first dispelled common ideas about homelessness first. She went from homeless high school drop out to being named in Financial Post Magazine as one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women.


    Here is her talk. To see what she is like as an activist, have a look at some of the news pieces on Youtube.



  14. minglingmike says:

    Dear Kathryn
    May I take this chance to let you know about the organisation on whose behalf I blog: http://www.banks-need-boundaries.net. It has a petition “Human rights, not banking plights!” which might be something you’d want to sign, and maybe even support.
    and kind regards
    Michael K

  15. Jack Kelle says:

    Dear Kathryn,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your coverage of the poverty crisis in America. As January is Poverty Awareness Month, I thought I would share this infographic I recently finished working on with you in hopes that you might find it interesting or be able to make some use of it.


    Jack Kelle

  16. Mary Ford says:

    Kathryn, I need to know where to find TANF Block grants to states rules on what they can spend the funds on. In Montana, DPHHS, awarded TANF funds to the Student Assistance Foundation to provide financial literacy to high school students planning to go to college instead of employment and training activities for TANF Heads of Households. I want to know if this is legal or where to find it. Thanks you. God bless you for your work.

  17. Kathryn Baer says:

    A very important question, Mary, and not easy to answer. Basically, states can use both their block grants and their maintenance-of-effort funds for anything that serves any of the four basic purposes established in the original TANF legislation. CLASP has a good summary of the federal rules, http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/files/Guide-to-Use-of-TANF-Funds.pdf

    As you’ll see, funds for the first two purposes must be for members of “needy” families. Financial literacy would seem to fall under Purpose #2. The federal Administration for Children and Families has a Q& A on the needy/non-needy, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/resource/q-a-use-of-funds?page=all

    However, nothing is simple here. States may set higher income limits for some activities. The Urban Institute has a complete summary of states’ TANF rules, http://anfdata.urban.org/wrd/databook.cfm

    Bottom line is that there’s nothing that requires Montana to spend any particular amount of money on employment and training services for TANF parents. The issue then would seem to be whether the college-bound students are “needy,” under Montana’s definition.

    But I hasten to add, I’m no expert.

  18. Bridget says:

    Hello Kathryn,

    I came across this article and thought you would find it of interest due to some of your posts regarding homelessness. I so enjoy all your articles. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us.


  19. Kathryn Baer says:

    Thanks for the link, Bridget. As I suppose you know, permanent supportive housing, using the Housing First model is widely viewed as a best practice. I believe you’re using it in Virginia. Right?

  20. Bridget says:


    Yes, you are correct Virginia does use the housing first model. The one agency that popped into my mind is “Housing Families First.” Of course there are tons more throughout VA that have the same mission/goals.

  21. nethshelley says:

    You are awesome.
    I did not realize you were doing this blog on a volunteer basis, which just elevated the esteem I already had for the work you do. Very few people care to do what you are doing. Your voice is very important.
    Thank you again.

  22. Kathryn Baer says:

    How kind of you, Shelley. Blogging has always been something I do just because I feel a should. But there are payoffs of a non-monetary kind. Learning, for example, meeting interesting and inspiring people and occasionally feeling what I post makes a difference. Your comments provide all three.

  23. […] the same question too and have searched for answers. During my quest for answers I came across Kathryn Baer blog and read about some of the obstacles these people face trying to find a […]

  24. Nechama Masliansky says:

    I am so sorry to learn that Kathryn Baer, passionate and heroic advocate and analyst, has passed away. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/latimes/obituary.aspx?n=kathryn-baer&pid=185866808

  25. Shelley Neth says:

    I am greatly saddened to hear of Kathryn Baer’s passing. Hers was a voice in the wilderness, advocating for the needs of America’s poor, even into her retirement. She was heroic in her advocacy, at a time when very few voices care to speak to the needs of the least amung us and most in our capitol have turned their backs on the poor entirely. She was an angel who earned her wings way before her passing. I know of no one with the intellect, compassion and dedication able or ready to fill the void created by her passing. I will miss her greatly. Thank you, Kathryn, for everything. Rest in Peace.

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