• 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


    1994 - 2024

    30h Anniversary of the passage 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. The law passed in 1994.


    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


    FMN children

    What HEAR US does best...

    • Since 2005, HEAR US has worked hard to give voice & visibility
      to families & youth experiencing homelessness. 
      Looking back, looking forward, our best work is our films.

      No "talking heads." Just raw, honest stories from those who know
      homelessness best--the families & youth
      who experience life without a place to call home.
      Ideal for school trainings, community awareness-raising, classroom lessons, and more...

      Check out our list of films here. (Oh yeah, they're free!)

      MyOwn4Walls logo 500
      My Own Four Walls, all-time favorite,
      our first film, still relevant today!
      (20 min)

    With any luck, HEAR US will be releasing a fantastic new book summer '24!
    The 3 Melissas' Practical Guide to Surviving Family Homelessness

    (Making Bad a Little Better). (more info)


    HU books 3 21a

    HEAR US books inform, inspire
    Looking for quality books on homelessness--for adults & kids?
    HEAR US offers a wide array, and our indie bookshop lets you shop
    for books of your choice, get them shipped out fast, while supporting essential 
    indie bookstores. 

      • HEAR US Bookshop -
      • For the "other" source of books - Amazon 
      • A limited supply of "It's About the Children"  books by Pat Van Doren
        are still available. (Larger orders may be available. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
      • HEAR US Square site.

    Recent Films by HEAR US!

    Caring Schools Make the Difference - NC 1/24

    be kind UNCG Large

    Family and youth homelessness comes in many forms. Schools are the constant island of security. These courageous moms and youth share their stories with hopes that viewers will learn more about the challenges of homelessness and the importance of school officials who help however possible.
    This 15-min. film was filmed for
    the North Carolina Homeless Education Program (NCHEP).   

    Homeless Liaisons Navigate Challenges
    in North Carolina

    Help tilesEvery school district nationwide has homeless liaisons, the mostly-unsung champions for students experiencing homelessness. North Carolina has a well-trained cadre of liaisons serving students and their families. This 12-min. film takes you across the state to see and hear the liaisons in action. 


    Hidden in Plain Sight -Dawn Family Plate
    Families Experiencing Homelessness
    in New Mexico

    Four mothers and a dad share their families' experiences of homelessness and describe how schools helped them survive.(16:15) 
    Dawn Mama Mayor smallDedicated to Dawn, who passed away July 8, 2023. 

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

    NM Youth Intro


    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.


    ID eagleIdaho 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.

    Not Homeless Enough (8/21)

    Be Kind window

    The agony of parents with no viable options in Madison and Dane County, WI (video 10 min). This film illustrates the dilemma of those "not homeless enough" for HUD's definition of homelessness.

    Capital Failure -family in parking lot

    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...



  • 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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