homeless families

  • 2025 Calendar



    DDN Director aDiane's Bio

    Diane's Facebook Page

    Diane's books: 
    Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness

    Changing the Paradigm of Homelessness

    Dismazed and Driven - My Look at Family Homelessness in America

    Diane's blog: //medium.com/@dianehearus 

    Diane's Awards:

    • 2023, DuPage PADS Wake Up Your Spirit award
    • 2022, Honorary membership, ODK, SUNY, Oneonta
    • 2015, NAEHCY, Best Targeted Campaign, Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS
    • 2015, Sisters of St. Francis, Joliet, IL, Mother Alfred Moes Award
    • 2014, University of St. Francis, Joliet, IL Sister Clare Award
    • 2013, Texas Homeless Network, Kathy Reid Award
    • 2012, National Association for Education of Homeless Children Youth, Sandra Neese Lifetime Achievement Award
    • 2012, The Education Center, Naperville, Kids’ Best Friend Award

    • 2012, Georgia Alliance to End Homelessness, Community Builder Award

    • 2012, Bridge Communities, Transforming Lives Award (YouTube video of her acceptance speech)

    • 2008, Naperville Church Women United, Human Rights Award

    • 2007, NAEHCY, Outstanding Media Award

    • 2006, Kane County (IL) Hidden Hero; and University of St. Francis Award of Merit


    17 - 18, Raleigh, NC
    3 Melissas National Book Launch (details TBA)
    27, 6 - 8 pm., 3 Melissas Book event, Boone, NC, App Theater, in conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of Hospitality House

    28, 10 - 5, Winston-Salem Bookmarks book fair, 

    OCTOBER  8, Greensboro, NC, 3 Melissas Book event
    Scuppernong Books, details TBA

    11 - 13, San Jose, CA, NCH Lived Experiene Conference, (TBD)
    16 -19, Orlando, FL, NAEHCY conference

    DECEMBER  21, Philadelphia, PA, Homeless Persons Memorial, Memorial Blanket


  • 30-Day Compassion Challenge


    30 DayCC

    DDN Colorful camera

    I believe most people would do something to help the millions of families and youth experiencing homelessness if they knew how extensive and devastating this crisis is. As with other monumental issues, we just don't know what we need to know. This calendar will provide unprecedented  insights.
    author of Dismazed and Driven: My Look at Family Homelessness in America


    1.5 million students identified, and more than 7 million kids total, experience homelessness in the U.S.

    Use our free, web-based HEAR US Compassion Challenge to meet some of these kids and families, and learn firsthand from them about the impacts of homelessness on their lives. Knowing that time is precious, we've designed a simple process to increase the knowledge and compassion of people across cyberspace. Many of these stories are included in Diane's new book, Dismazed and Driven: My Look at Family Homelessness in America.

    • We will ask for about 5-minutes each day for 30 days(on your own schedule). Our calendar (below) offers an easy link to 30 short video stories featuring a family, youth, or a few people sharing their experience of homelessness. Watch, share, act.
    • You decide how you will respond to the videos.  We won't prescribe any specific action--do what you are best able to do--in thought, action, sharing, donating, sharing--something to create compassion. See our suggestions from The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids
      Act locally. Children, youth, and families within your community need your help. 

    The problem of family homelessness must be addressed on TWO levels--long-term and short-term:

    DC capitol reflect small

    1. Long-term Systemic Solutions. We strongly support the growing movement to align HUD's definition of homelessness with that used in the U.S. Department of Education (McKinney-Vento Act). Right now, HUD's limited definition excludes about 80% of families, youth and other adults experiencing homelessness which means they don't get the help they need to exit homelessness. For more info and to contact your legislators, go to www.helphomelesskidsnow.org

      Economic, racial, and a host of other issues also cause/contribute to/perpetuate homelessness (see HEAR US Other Stuff chart). HEAR US will call attention to these as feasible. Our one-woman organization doesn't pretend to have a grip on all that besets this vulnerable population in our country, but we team up with those who do (see Facebook info below). 

      Charlie book cover
    2. Short-term Immediate Relief. We all have basic needs--food, shelter, health care, education--to mention the obvious. Your community may/may not be trying to provide for these needs for struggling families. Even if they are, be assured the needs are greater than available resources. Our suggestions reflect knowledge from across the country--practical actions that will help families and kids in your community. (See The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids)Take Action Arrow copy

    Even if you can't get out and organize a drive or volunteer in other ways, you can do important things:

    • Get the attention of your legislators. Be assured that homelessness is a low-priority for most lawmakers. They don't think it's an issue. Your contact will help them pay attention. Here's one campaign HEAR US is working on.
    • Share good information on social media. This is constructive (and counters the rampant sharing of crazy stuff). We've seen countless examples of good things happening because of sharing. 
    • Follow Diane on Facebook. She occasionally posts on other social media, but FB is her daily venue where she shares stories directly related to family/youth homelessness and related issues. 

    The combined impact of good people across the country doing good will create goodness in the lives of families/youth experiencing homelessness and in your community. That's no small thing! 

    That's all we are asking! 


    Our Compassion Challenge page below has 30 sections, each with a brief explanation about the video, link and timing provided. You will choose to watch one video a day (about 5 minutes).  No special code, no cost--just watch one film a day. 

    The stories were all filmed and edited by Diane Nilan over a 15-year period of backroad travels across country. Participants willingly shared their stories with hopes that viewers would gain understanding and act compassionately when they encounter others in homeless situations. Anyone viewing these short videos for 30 days will attain knowledge about family/youth homelessness far beyond what most people know or understand.  Diane's new book, Dismazed and Driven, is based on these interviews she filmed during her 15 years of travel.

    Diane's Latest Book + Compassion Challenge

     Dismazed and Driven, Diane's memoir-social narrative! Watching the videos lets you meet many families in Dismazed and Driven.

    Stories in her book will open eyes and hearts to the issue of family homelessness through her unique account of her travels. (All proceeds from book sales benefit HEAR US Inc.

    Below we offer an easy connection to 30 stories featuring a children, youth, and familiessharing their experiences of homelessness. Watch, share, ACT! 


    Our Compassion Challenge Calendar effort will create the motivated Compassion Force needed to Paradigm coveralleviate the unimaginable amount of suffering caused by COVID-19 and the poverty and homelessness caused by the destruction of our economy. Viewers will gain an intimate knowledge of family homelessness from those who know it best--parents, children, and youth who live with no place to call home.

    This is a perfect "course" on family homelessness!  

    Diane's latest book, Dismazed and Driven +

    Compassion Challenge Calendar videos +
    our latest textbook, Changing the Paradigm of Homelessness =  
    a vibrant curriculum on family homelessness! 

    1 So They Say explores the issue of who is homeless. It's a bigger issue than you might think! Since the film was made, numbers of children/youth experiencing homelessness have skyrocketed. Dismazing! 

    video link

    2 min. 40 sec.

    2 Many Faces of Homelessness: Ayele and Family Near Disney World (FL) gives you a glimpse into one of many families in Mickey Mouse's shadow. Pat LaMarche narrates this film, giving a quick lesson on the importance of a better definition of homelessness, while Ayele explains how tough life in a motel really is. 

    video link

    3 min. 50 sec.  

    3 Doggone Shame--Vet and Sons Homeless in Mobile, AL,  is another stereotype buster, this time as you "tour" a cramped, leaky RV, home to a Jason (a veteran), his 3 sons and their dog. 

    video link

    3 min. 35 sec. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    4 Parking Lot Survival: Homeless Family with Nowhere to Go  Living in a car has become more prevelant as homelessness increases. "Sara" and her young son "Kenny" let Diane accompany them for a day. Wonder what it's like to live in a car? Filmed in OR

    video link

    5 min. 35 sec. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    5 Worn Out Welcome Mat: Olga - Dreams and Dusty Roads takes viewers to a tiny town on the southern border of Texas where Olga and her 8 children cram in with her parents in their camper. 

     video link

    3 min. 52 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    6 Life is But a Dreamoffers a look at babies and toddlers--a segment of the homeless population often overlooked. These little ones are in a daycare facility that provides excellent care, but it's never enough. Filmed in MA

     video link

    4 min. 25 sec.

    7 Many Faces of Homelessness - Alexis is a 18-year-old unaccompanied youth in the Phoenix, AZ-area, now with an infant. She describes her options. 

    video link

    2 min. 9 sec. 

    8 Day at the Beach focuses on a family, with 2 small children, grapples with the painful realities of homelessness on the OR coast. They've bounced around from motels, family homes, and car. 

    video link

    4 min. 12 sec. 

    9 Shelter You offers an inspiring look at various forms of homelessness for families  in shelters. Their faces...music...and a challenge. 

     video link

    4 min. 26 sec. 

    10 Becky Blasts Homelessness, with no shelter other than a small pop-up camper, Becky and her family endured months of brutally cold weather and multiple challenges to survival in central Michigan. This didn't stop her compassion and courage.

     video link

    3 min. 42 sec. 

    11 PA Kids Share their Wisdom  A courageous group of kids without homes in PA tell viewers just what it's like. Spend 4 minutes with them, then share. They are among tens of thousands (yes!) of kids without homes in PA...and among millions (yes!) in the U.S.

     video link

    4 min. 33 sec.

    12  Little Littlest Nomads - a short version of the 11-min. HEAR US film, Littlest Nomads, features homelessness from the viewpoint of little kids. 

     video link

     3 min. 05 sec.

    13 Desperate in OR: Homeless Families and Youth- features a grandmother and her granddaughter, a mother with kids, and an unaccompanied youth sharing their experiences of homelessness.  

     video link

    4 min. 48 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    14 Invisible Homeless Families- 3 Moms, 9 Kids in Idaho  takes you to a very small town in rural Idaho, where 3 courageous women each with 3 kids shared their stories of homelessness, all doubled up. You'll catch on to the fact that family homelessness is much more prevalent than most realize. and resources scarce.

    video link

     6 min. 38 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    15 Hector Has His Say lets you hear from a young child about his experience of school and how homelessness impacts his life. Filmed in KS.

     video link

    1 min. 27 sec.

    16 Our Worst Fear  tells how Christina and her family went from living in a "normal" nice home in Sarasota, FL, to bouncing around in many forms of homelessness, all because of an unexpected medical emergency. She astutely explains the basics.

     video link

    4 min. 40 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    17 Alexa: Asked and Answered  finds this high school senior covering the main topics of what it's like to be homeless on her own, living in a camper with no utilities, good and bad. Big stuff and little stuff. Filmed in ID.

     video link

    4 min. 46 sec. 

    18 NCSU Food Insecurity and Homelessnessgives 3 university students who've experienced homelessness and poverty the opportunity to explain the challenges of succeeding in school while balancing survival.  

    video link

     3 min.

    19 Ride It Out - Hurricane Michael's Carnage conveys the widespread destruction in the Panama City, FL area in 2018 that left many families homeless. Rosie, a mom with 2 daughters, describes her family's experience during and after the storm. 

     video link

    4 min.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    20 We Didn't Ask to be Here explains Byron, as he describes how he, his infirm wife, and kids went from housing stability to grueling homelessness in an unexpected heartbeat. He points out the injustices and the difficulties of finding help in Idaho.

     video link

    4 min. 38 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    21 Worn Out Welcome Mat - Marine Mama  Nothing in her Marine training prepared Candace for what she and her daughter went through as they lived in their car and doubled up before moving into a shelter. Filmed in KS.

     video link

    2 min. 44 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    22 We Had It One Day laments Lupe as she describes how shock of homelessness hit  her family. They did the best they could in response to it. Like many, they put their belongings into storage and moved into a motel, thinking it would be a short time until they returned to normal. Filmed in CA.

     video link

    3 min. 55 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    23 Many Faces of Homelessness: Brandy, Kenny and Kids explores how Brandy, her husband, and their 4 kids have bounced around in small motel rooms for years. The toll it's taken on her family is obvious and devastating. Filmed in FL.

    video link

    2 min. 35 sec. 

    24 Worn Out Welcome Mat: Oyuki gives an agonizing look as this mom grapples with explaining to her young children why they're living in parks and abandoned buildiings. School is a haven. Filmed in TX.

     video link

    4 min. 34 sec.

    25 My Biggest Fear - Mom Shares Impact of Homelessness on Family illustrates how Tamu and her 4 children went from normal life as a family to homelessness, doubling up until that didn't work, then into expensive NJ motels. 

    video link

    4 min. 55 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    26 Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS: It's All About Sex shows how Melissa figured this out early on in her family's homelessness. They bounced from doubled-up situations to shelter to horrible doubled-up situations. 

     video link

    3 min. 57 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    27 Many Faces of Homelessness: April  tells how layoffs pushed this family into homelessness, doubling up, then into a shelter in Phoenix, AZ. April explains the pitfalls of doubled-up situations. 

     video link

    2 min. 32 sec.

    28 Preschool in Motels: DuPage County (IL) Family Struggles to Survive Homelessness shows in 90 seconds what families with young children do for "school" from their motel room. 

     video link

    1 min. 30 sec.

    29 Worn Out Welcome Mat - TX: Leia and Family illustrates that doubled-up living is much harder than most realize. Leia describes some of the challenges she and her family endured. 

     video link

    2 min. 28 sec. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    30 Positively Homeless: Family Homelessness in Americaexplores how  Nicole, her husband, and their 5 kids hit a rough patch and did what most people do - turn to friends for help. That didn't work out, and the HUD homeless definition and requirements became the barrier that kept them homeless in expensive motels. Filmed in MI.

     video link

    5 min. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    If you are moved to help children, families, youth experiencing homelessness,
    check our suggestions from The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids.

    ote new logo FBCONGRATULATIONS! You made it!

    Now you graduate to our advanced program!OTE 7 women

    Watch on the edge: Family Homelessness in America(OTE, 1 hr.) 
     (Several women in OTE are in the Dismazed and Driven book) 



  • Compassion Epidemic

    30 DayCC 

    Join the HEAR US 30-Day Compassion Challenge




    HEAR US has plenty of powerful videos and books.
    Watch and share! 

    Take Action Arrow LI2


    The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids

    by Diana Bowman

    Charlie-book cover


  • Diane's Bio_HerStory


    6 24 24 DDN bio
    This wide-ranging interview of Diane gives a glimpse into her 3+ decades
    working with families experiencing homelessness. 

    (West Suburban Living magazine, 2/2022)

     Diane giving a talk
    Diane in front of her van at Ohio State UniversityDiane with her video camera

    Diane in front of her van in San Antonio Diane in front of her van at San Antonio

    Diane and her home/office/vehicle, "Tillie 2" 



  • It's About the Children

    Pat's children's books enlighten readers about the real effects of homelessness on families. ORDER


    Pat Van Doren
    Honored by Congress!

    PVD Foster

    Congressman Bill Foster IL-11, D, thanks Pat for her tireless service on behalf of families and adults experiencing homelessness.

    The event took place November 12, 2022, at Heritage Woods, Bolingbrook, IL. 

    Cong Proclam

    Volcano Book - 25th Anniversary - 2023! 

    Watch a 5-min. adaptation of the
    Volcano book

    as created and performed by members of
    Christ United Methodist Church, Algonquin, IL


    Where Can I Build My Volcano?

    The iconic story of a little girl's coping with homelessness, in school and at home.


    Place of Our Own-cover A Place of Our Own- sequel to Volcano Book. The meaning of having a place to live after doing without for so long.

     5or6 A Family of Five or Six

    what happens when a family of six is displaced by a hurricane and becomes a family of five.


    Watch a short, inspiring clip of Pat Van Doren's powerful photos combined with a beautiful song by Marybeth Saunders. NOEL




    Children are often overlooked when people speak of homelessness.

    When kids lack a place to call home, they are hungry. They lose their friends, often their schools, and sadly their childhood.


    "Ryan" ©1995, Pat Van Doren


    With over 7 million
    homeless children in America
    it's time to remember...

    It's About the Children

    Dismayed about the growing number of homeless children she saw at a local shelter, photojournalist Pat Van Doren decided to do something...she began shooting images of homeless children, portraying them as she saw them--as children.

    Pat was in the shelter's parking lot with her camera when the stray 4-year-old boy, Charlie, picked up the stray cat. Her talented eye quickly framed the shot.

    "Charlie" (© 1994, Pat Van Doren) is rightly credited with attaining passage of "Charlie's Bill,"the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act of 1994, landmark legislation that inspired Congress to pass a similar bill, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act of 2001.

    PVD headshot.jpgFollowing passage of "Charlie's Bill," Pat continued to aim her lens at kids and adults who trusted her integrity and appreciated the results displayed across Illinois and the nation's capital.

    She created It's About the Children to focus her talented energies on raising awareness of homeless children. Her acclaimed images and poignant children's books have touched more hearts than any other awareness-raising tools.

    Pat's efforts were honored by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (2006).

    IATC is a project of HEAR US Inc.




    1 3M THEcover copy

    NOW ACCEPTING! Bulk Pre-Orders

    The Three Melissas - 
    The Practical Guide to Surviving Family Homelessness

    Every family experiencing homelessness needs to have a copy of this handbook! So do people who work with families experiencing homelessness.  The Three Melissas whose wisdom fills this unique and essential book provided invaluable tips and encouragement for families. Their topics include how to handle situations arising when doubled up, how to manage food issues, how to navigate school enrollment, how to tend to your kids' needs and more...it's a perfect McKinney-Vento tool!

    The book is scheduled to be available September '24. 

    HEAR US is now accepting bulk pre-orders. Bulk order price $10 book ($15 retail). HEAR US will provide an official quote/pre-order confirmation. Shipping costs will be added based on order quantity and location. Email pre-order to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or contact her for info. 


  • Our Mission

    The HEAR US mission is to give voice and visibility to children and youth experiencing homelessness.baby-snowbank.jpg

    This organization produces poignant films and books that are used by educators, social service personnel and other audiences to call attention to the invisible crisis of millions of families with children and young people who struggle without a place to call home.

    • HEAR US addresses audiences at conferences, university and college students, and a variety of gatherings to foster a greater understanding of homelessness.
    • HEAR US joins with like-minded organizations to inform public policy based on what the experts--those experiencing homelessness--think is needed.
    • HEAR US also facilitates media connections for homeless families/youth, and is quite active on social media, shining a light on the need to repair the torn safety net that leaves millions--babies, toddlers, school kids, teens and young adults, and adults-- on the streets. 

    Since 2005, HEAR US has been a national force advocating for families and youth experiencing homelessness.

    USA map small

    HEAR US has made statewide McKinney-Vento films for:

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

    Filming also in:

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

    DDN Colorful cameraMy contribution to our nation's conundrum of family homelessness is HEAR US.  
    Our videos, books and presentations illuminate the magnitude of this issue. The greater the understanding of how many babies, toddlers, children and youth are without a place to call home, the more enlightened our response will be. That’s the theory. And it tends to work in most places.

    Diane D. Nilan
    HEAR US Inc.

    Diane in front of Tillie2, her van, at Ohio State following a radio interview.

    Diane in front of her van at Ohio State



  • Worn Out Welcome Mat


    identified as

    'homeless' by 

    schools are

    doubled up.



    Worn Out Welcome Mat

    Participating States: 








    The largest segment of the homeless population: those doubled up or staying with others because of loss of housing or other issue. 

    Doubled up--a difficult concept for some to grasp (doubled up is not considered "homeless" by HUD, keeping these families and youth from vital assistance - Diane's blog explains it). The perils of living doubled up are often hidden, with millions experiencing the Worn Out Welcome Mat syndrome, a stressful, highly-mobile existence for millions who have lost their home and have nowhere to go.

    Schools struggle to sort out doubled up for "convenience" and doubled up as homeless. (From the National Center on Homeless Education: Resources to help schools understand doubled up.)

    Families and youth who have lost housing and move in with others don't often self-identify as "homeless" for many reasons: fear of children being put into the foster care system, parental shame, lack of awareness of how their (lack of) housing status can qualify them for assistance, and more.

    Educational Leadership Journalpublished an article, written by Vicky Dill of the Texas Homeless Education Office (THEO), an excellent explanation of "doubled up" and the impact on families/youth. (PDF) The article contains vignettes of stories, and links to YouTube selections filmed by HEAR US for the Texas Worn Out Welcome Mat project.

    HEAR US, through our Worn Out Welcome Mat project, give families and youth the opportunity to share the challenges of being doubled up with nowhere to go. 

    HEAR US invites people of compassion to urge your elected officials (federal) to expand HUD's definition of "homeless" so families/youth in doubled up situations will be eligible for more assistance. MORE INFO: www.helphomelesskidsnow.org 

    HEAR US welcomes the opportunity to work with state departments of education, via their McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth programs, to create a local Worn Out Welcome Mat. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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