• Charlie's Compassion Challenge

    HEAR US Inc. is issuing 
    Charlie’s Compassion Challenge!
    Bring goodness into the lives of kids experiencing homelessness in your community by picking (at least) one deed from The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids. 

    Perfect for individuals, service clubs, scouts, PTOs, faith communities, etc. Actions helps kids of all ages, infant to young adult--right here in your own community! 

    Charlie book coverYour good deed will benefit local efforts to help homeless kids. You can connect with local programs. If you don’t know who to connect with, this book describes how to find local services.

    Get a copy of The Charlie Book:
    HEAR US for $10 (+$6 s/h), 

       Kindle $1.99
    All proceeds from book sales benefit homeless kids.

    • Pick your challenge. 
    • Contact the local shelter/program to verify this need.
    • Do it! 
    • Deliver to the shelter/program. Ongoing, no deadline!
      (HEAR US is planning Naperville area events in November. Sign up for our free monthly e-newsletterfor more information.)

    Page1CCC postcard sm 1

    Did You Know?

    Homelessness affects both adults and kids.

    • Thousands  of kids of all ages are homeless in the Fox Valley, IL area. Millions (6M+) across the country.
    • Families/youth tend to beinvisible in their homelessness.
    • Kids can attendschool and have strong educational rights (law originated in the Fox Valley.)
    • Agencies/schools can’t meet all theneeds of these kids.
    • Given help, these kids cansucceed.

    HEAR US and local agencies/schools want to raise awareness of this issue so immediate and long-term needs can be met. 

    Charlie’s Compassion Challengewill: 

    • generate needed supplies to help local kids, 
    • raise awareness of the plight and promise of local kids,
    • develop support for local efforts,
    • challenge officials to work harder for solutions.

    charles smileCompassion cures Apathy, causing love to seep almost undetected, touching those who give and those who receive. This little boy,"Charlie," aka Charles, has brought about more good than anyone could ever know, even Charles(2008).   


    Charlie is a real kid from the Fox Valley.
    He and his mom were homeless.
    Naperville Sun photographer
    Pat Van Dorentook this photo. 

    Pat's a HEAR US director, serving with a dedicated volunteer board overseeing her project, It’s About the Children. 


    HEAR US Inc. 

    Since 2005, HEAR US Inc.,
    this Naperville-based national nonprofit
    gives voice & visibility to families & youth 
    experiencing homelessness. 

    Founded by Diane Nilan (former director at PADS/Hesed House in Aurora), who lives in her van. She travels across backroads filming and producing award-winning videosfeaturing families and youth sharing what it’s like to be homeless and what school means. Check out the website!

    DDN T2 TX


  • Charlie's Law--History


    1993 - 2023

    30h Anniversary of the birth of the Illinois Education of Homeless Children Act 

    "Charlie's Law"

     Charlie, the little boy whose image launched the movement to improve homeless children's educational rights...

    Pat Van Doren's poignant, memorable, photo adorned every piece of promotional material about the

    ILLINOIS EDUCATION FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN ACT of 1994. We commemorate 1993 as the beginning of this campaign because it's when the family was turned away from their school, the act that began the legislative effort to change the Illinois state law. 


    Read an excerptfrom Diane's book, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness, about the improbable beginnings of this law, now represented in the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act of 2001 (updated 12/15). 

    Definition of "homeless" in this law.

    ORDER DIANE'S BOOK, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness that contains the story of Charlie and this law.

    This book and Diane's other books are also available through Amazon and other book vendors.


  • HEAR US Projects

    Besides the longstanding involvement of HEAR US in projects that raise awareness of family/youth homelessness, HEAR US has flexibility to pursue projects that would otherwise take a long time for other organizations to get off the ground. When a relevant issue arises, and circumstances allow, Diane can often pursue it, either by researching and bloggingabout it or visiting the location and filming.

    Other endeavors include Memorial Blanket Project, and various local awareness-raising events, e.g. diaper drives.

    Memorial Blanket Project  Diaper drive Budgetel Inn in Chattanooga closed
    DC Blankets Diaper drive 7 19 budgetel closed

    Recent examples of HEAR US action include: 

    Hurricane Michael, Panama City, FL 2020 Ride It Out
    Family in motel during Covid, Raleigh, NC 2020

    Capital Failure

    Doubled up homelessness in Madison and Dane County, WI 2021 Not Homeless Enough
    Humanitarian crisis caused by mass eviction in Chattanooga, TN 2022 Unexpected Upheaval
  • It's Everybody's Problem


     So often you hear, "We don't have homelessness in our town." or "It's a big city problem." or "They could get a place if they wanted to." or "Kids aren't homeless."

     More than 7 million invisible children and youthexperience homelessness across America, in every community.
    They need your help.  Thanks for your interest! Thanks for your support!

    Donate DDN MEDIUM blog

    Memorial Blanket Success!DC Blankets in front of US Capitol

    The December 21 event to call attention to the millions of
    children and adults who experience homelessness,
    and the countless people who die on the streets
    exceeded our wildest expectations! 
    HEAR US website Memorial Blanket coverage.
    Also, see pictures, video, articles at

    HEAR US board member Pat Van Doren 
    honored by Congress!

    Pat was recognized for her 3 decades of advocacy work to help families and adults
    experiencing homelessness. 
    See more of Pat's work.

    Pat Van Doren and HEAR US boardPat van doren and congressman bill fosterProclamation congress pat van doren(Left) Pat surrounded by HEAR US board members Maria Wilson, Barb Schneider, Diane Nilan, Rosie Robbs (missing Marilyn McGowan and Helen Jilek, OSB)
    (Center) Proclamation entered into the Congressional Records by Congressman Bill Foster.
    (Right) Congressman Bill Foster (IL, 11-D) congratulates Pat.
    The November 12th event was held at Heritage Woods, Bolingbrook, IL,
    and attended by family, friends, and neighbors.

    Charlie Book Released on Kindle!

    Charlie book cover
    The ever-popular

    Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids

    is now available as a Kindle book!


    Click here for info and to order


    New Films by HEAR US!
    Hidden in Plain Sight -
    Families Experiencing Homelessness in New Mexico
    (5/22)Dawn Family Plate

    Four mothers and a dad share their families' experiences of homelessness and
    describe how schools helped them survive

    HEAR Them: Youth Without Homes in New MexicoNM Youth Intro (5/22)

    Six New Mexico teens shared their experiences and insights about homelessness. Three teens are unaccompanied youth--without parents/guardians involved in their lives. The other three are part of a family. (10:09)

    ID eagle

    Idaho Schools: Lifesaving Connection  (1/22)
    4 women share their families' struggles and accomplishments, pointing to the importance of school support (18:30)

    Families Experiencing Housing Instability in Idaho  
    ID mothers share what school support meant to their families (6:50)

    These women offer deep, heartfelt insights about the agonies of housing instability and the impact of support from their children's school communities. 
    Invaluable lessons for all audiences. Perfect McKinney-Vento training tools.

    Check Out >> HEAR US Books 

    Visit the > HEAR US BOOKSHOP <

    To purchase other HEAR US books, visit our E-STORE.

    >>HEAR US books available through Amazon.

    Not Homeless Enough (8/21)

    Be Kind window

    The agony of parents with no viable options (video 10 min)

    Dane County, Wisconsin, with the capital seat Madison,
    has hundreds of families who have lost housing and have nowhere to go.
    Four parents share their observations and experiences of being
    "not homeless enough." 
    Wisconsin State Journal story 8-8-21

    family in parking lot

     Capital Failure -

    Family Homelessness Surging (3/21)

    See and hear this family's struggles being stuck in motels during CoVid in Raleigh, NC. (12-min)

    Jamie's astute descriptions of her family's hardships
    resonate with many families in similar situations. 
     Her textbook lesson that needs widespread sharing.
    More about the film, resources...

    Dismazed and Driven -
    My Look at Family Homelessness in America

    Part memoir of Diane's 15 years 
    chronicling family homelessness,
    part social justice narrative.

    Perfect companion book forChanging the Paradigm of Homelessness

    >>BUY THE BOOK<<

    >> 1-min. VIDEO PROMO

    dismazed and driven book cover

    Purchase from:

    Arrange your Dismazed-Driven book presentation! ContactThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Take the 30-day HEAR US Compassion Challenge

    HEAR US 30 day compassion challenge
    Videos match stories in Dismazed and Driven, Diane's new book!

    A textbook that speaks the truth about 

    and offers strategies to address this crisis.  

    changing Paradigm book cover

    click arrowFor information and to order


    Check out our vast collection of videos featuring families/youth experiencing homelessness!
    HEAR US has made statewide McKinney-Vento films for:

    Texas, Kansas, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, 
    New Hampshire, New Jersey, Hawaii, New Mexico

    Filming also in:

    Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois,
    New York, California, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, 
    New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin 
    USA map small



  • Memorial Blanket 2022


    Photo (c) Diane Nilan 2022DC Blankets

    The Memorial Blanketart display on 12/21/22 in front of the Reflecting Pool at the US Capitol. 

    1,179 handmade blankets from knitters, crocheters, and quilters across the country blanketed the Capitol lawn. They were made by strangers for strangers, a true work of love.

    The blankets are a stark reminder of people who live and die on the streets of the US every year. 

    Following the one-day event, blankets were donated to people in need.

    The project was sponsored by the Charles Bruce Foundation.

    Photo (c) Diane Nilan 2022IL Blankets

    Quilts in the foreground were submitted by HEAR US. "These Little Piggies are Homeless" photos by Pat Van Doren are in the center of the quilts that were finished by volunteers in Illinois.

    Babies' and toddlers' footprints from 3 North Carolina programs serving young homeless children surround the Piggies images.

    The larger red, white and blue quilt has the iconic image of "Charlie" in the center. This represents the decades' long Illinois involvement in strenghtening educational rights for homeless students. 

    WATCH: Memorial Blanket photo collectionby Diane Nilan   

    WATCH: End of the Memorial Blanket Day by Diane Nilan 

     Washington Post, 12/22/22

    Handmade blankets for homeless crafted with ‘love’
    come to Capitol Hill

     The Progressive Magazine, 12/29/22

    On a Mission to End Homelessness, and Spread Warmth

    EARLIER COVERAGE of the HEAR US Memorial Blanket Activities: 

    ►Watch this NCTV news segmentabout the unique blankets being made in Illinois!

    ► Diane worked with 3 North Carolina communities to create Piggies blankets for babies using Pat Van Doren's iconic "These Little Piggies are Homeless" image.

    22 NC piggies FINAL small
    Here's a 1-minute TV newsclipshowing this heartwarming process.





    ► Here are the news storiesabout the Memorial Blanket Project

    ►Here's an adorable look at a "Piggies" event. (2-min)



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