• 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) 



  • About Us

    HEAR US is a unique, effective national nonprofit organization dedicated to giving voice and visibility to children and youth experiencing homelessness.

    HEAR US believes that:

    • Young people and parents experiencing homelessness are effective spokespersons. See our extensive list of HEAR US videos.
    • Caring people across the country are willing advocates for systemic change. SEE COMPASSION EPIDEMIC
    • Valuable tools to foster understanding of homeless families will enlighten those unaware-policy makers, educators, and the public. SEE PROJECTS
    • Shining a light on issues facing homeless families and youth is the best way to raise awareness and encourage local, state and national solutions. SEE on the edge: Family Homelessness in America
    • Children can learn about homelessness and help. See It's About the Children
    • Babies and toddlers in homeless situations must receive significant help (and their families need housing & services). Learn why in the HEAR US film, Littlest Nomads. 
    • Children and youth deserve the opportunity to thrive. HEAR US offers inspiration and activities in Yay Babies! Yay Kids!

    HEAR US Inc. is a 501(c)(3) corporation dependent on donations and grants to support our unique and essential mission.

    Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.  (FEIN 32-0155105)

    GuideStar listingof 990s and organizational information.
    GuideStar logo V 131x191

    Why HEAR US? - click here





  • Awareness Raising

    It's What HEAR US Does!

    Videos--powerful documentaries based on what families and youth share

    Books--children's and adult publications

    Presentations--inspiring and informative sessions geared to audiences' needs

    Advocacy--blogs, social media, mainstream media, and legislative 

    Why is it so important?

    Olga sons   Schools need quality materials to help staff identify students experiencing homelessness and understand what challenges the students face.
    Ayden morning routine   Communities need to better understand the scope of homelessness in their midst to better serve this invisible population. 
    cake and bed shelter   Media need to understand homelessness from the perspective of families and youth experiencing homelessness to better represent this issue. 
    family   Elected officals and agency personnel need to understand what families and youth experience and need to better serve this forgotten constituency. 








  • Babes' Banned Book Tour 22

    Babes Banned 22Babes banned logo

    Babes of Wrath will be taking their books, banned and not, on a one-month 12 state tour. 
    The Babes' presentations will hit an array of audiences. Some of the stops will be fundraisers, with book proceeds going to a local cause.

    Babes Banned Book Tour (BBBT) Schedule:

    Books available for purchase at events.

    Sept. 14, Lindenhurst, IL  7 -  8:30 pm, Lake Villa District Library, Program Room A, 140 N Munn Rd., Lindenhurst. Public, no charge.


    Sept. 15, Minneapolis, MN  My Very Own Bed and Eastside Neighborhood Association are hosting the BBBT. 
    Thursday, 7 - 8:30 pm, 1700 Second Street NE, Mpls, MN 


       TRAVEL to MT
    Sept. 18-21, MT

    19, 6 pm,Glendive, Dawson Community College, Toepke Auditorium, public, no charge

    20, 6 pm, Bozeman, location TBA, public, no charge 

    21, 3 pm?, Bozeman, Clearwater Properties, TBA

    21, 6 pm, Whitehall Community Library, public, no charge

    22, 2 pm, Pablo, Salish Kootenai College, public, no charge

    Sept. 23-24, Spokane and Cheney. WA

    23, 12 pm*, Liberty Park Library, public, no charge

    23, 2 - 3:00 pm*, Central Downtown Library, public, no charge

    24, 10 - 11 am, Medical Lake Library, public, no charge

    24, 12:30 - 1:30 pm, Cheney Public Library, public, no charge

    * times subject to change

    Sept 25-26  TRAVEL
    Sept. 27-29, Paradise, CA

    28, Cal State University, Chico, 7 -  8:30 pm, Colusa Hall 100, community awareness, 
    Butte County Office of Education, morning, time TBD
    29, 2:00 Cal State Chico, Child Welfare Class

    Sept. 29-30 TRAVEL after Chico event and monring of Salt Lake City event
    Sept. 30, Salt Lake City, UT  2:00, 2 - 3:30 pm, Salt Lake City Public Library
    Oct. 1  Travel to NM
    Oct. 3-9, Santa Fe/ABQ, NM  TBD
    Oct. 12, Joliet, IL University of St. Francis, 7 -  8:30 pm, San Damiano Hall, Main Campus, 500 Wilcox St. Joliet, IL, public, no charge



  • 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" 



  • HEAR US videos

    Check out the latest HEAR US Compassion Challenge, a 30-day calendar that connects HEAR US videos with Dismazed and Driven, Diane Nilan's latest memoir-social justice narrative.

  • HEAR US YouTube channel and/or 
  • Vimeo 
  • Since 2005, HEAR US has filmed and produced short videos to increase awareness of and sensitivity to families and youth experiencing homelessness. Here are links to these videos, with brief descriptions.

    If you'd like to show these videos to a larger audience and require a full-resolution version, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (giving ample time!).

    What is most captivating about her video work is her patience and focus—she allows her subjects, children and parents, to talk about their daily lives. Ms. Nilan places these conversations within the context of the towns, schools, and current living arrangements. Often participants discuss their struggle, but what is most affecting is seeing and feeling the struggle through the environment and emotions of the interviewee.

     Richard Feistman, PhD
    Senior Associate

    Center for Collaborative Education
    Using Our Heads and Hearts
    to Educate Youth Experiencing 

    LATEST HEAR US Videos:

    Caring Schools Make the Difference - NC (1/24) Schools in North Carolina provide support to families and students experiencing homelessness. This film features 3 moms and one youth on her own talking about their homelessness and how schools can be helpful. Funded by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program. 15 min
    Homeless Liaisons Navigate Challenges in North Carolina

    (12/23) Every 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 short film takes you across the state to see and hear the liaisons in action.

    This film was funded by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program.

    12:48 min
    HEAR Them: Youth Without Homes in New Mexico

    (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 that spent 5 months navigating homelessness before finally securing housing.

    This film was funded by the New Mexico Public Education Department, McKinney-Vento Program.

    10:09 min
    Hidden in Plain Sight - Families Experiencing Housing Instability in New Mexico

    (5/22) Four moms and a dad share their families' experiences of invisible homelessness in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.

    This film was funded by the NM Public Education Department's McKinney-Vento Program.

    16:15 min
    Idaho Schools: Lifesaving Connection (12/2021) For thousands of Idaho public school students, school is a lifesaver. Because of housing insecurity, these families struggle with day-to-day needs. Four women courageously describe their challenges and explain how schools have been lifesaving. Funded by the ID Department of Education's McKinney-Vento Homeless Education program.
    18:30 min
    Families Experiencing Housing Instability in Idaho (12/2021) Mothers of school-age kids in Idaho share what it's like to experience housing instability and homelessness and shine a light on what school support can mean. Funded by the ID Department of Education's McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program.  6:49 min
    Not Homeless Enough (8/2021) Families deemed "not homeless enough" by HUD's standards struggle to find places to stay. In Dane County, including Madison, WI, hundreds of families lack housing and resources. Four parents shared their plights and hopes. (Accompanying news story from Wisconsin State Journal) 10 min.
    Capital Failure: Family Homelessness Surging

    (3/2021) When families lose housing, often they cannot turn to shelters, especially families in rural areas where no services exist. If lucky, they may end up in a motel room, but that is not a solution. Jamie shares a textbook story of her family's homelessness in a Raleigh, NC motel. 12-min.
    Capital Failure 5-min. trailer

    More info about this video and issue, http://bit.ly/3r6rt3u or www.hearus.us

    12 min


    5 min 

    Danger Within (3/2020) Diane Nilan reads a segment from her new book, Dismazed and Driven - My Look at Family Homelessness in America. This excerpt features an interview with Phil Mangano, a federal official whose reign focused on HUD's "Chronic Homelessness Initiative" at what some believe was the expense of families and youth.  5:30 min
    This Is Homelessness (3/2020) A short (3-min) excerpt from Dismazed and Driven - My Look at Family Homelessness in America.Diane Nilan's memoir/social narrative covers her 15 years of HEAR US (www.hearus.us) travels across US backroads, chronicling family homelessness while living in a small RV.
    Info: https://amzn.to/3PD4s4B
    3 min
    Ride It Out: Hurricane Michael Carnage (2/2020) Rosie's challenges after Hurricane Michael destroyed her family's home didn't stop with surviving the storm. Her life, and that of her 2 daughters, can be devastated by the aftermath, despite her impressive accomplishments. 4 min
    Desperate In OR: Homeless Families and Youth (1/2020) Some areas of Oregon lack resources for families and youth experiencing homelessness. This 4-min video features a mother, a grandmother/granddaughter, and unaccompanied youth sharing their stories. 4.5 min

    NCSU: Food Insecurity and Homelessnes 

    (1/2020) Stories of 3 NCSU students sharing their experiences of food insecurity and homelessness at North Carolina State University. 3 min.
    Invisible Homeless Families: 3 Moms, 9 Kids in Idaho (1/2020) In a very small town in rural Idaho, 3 courageous women with 3 kids each agreed to share their stories of homelessness. Spend 6-½ minutes with them and you'll catch on to the fact that family homelessness is much more prevalent than most realize. 6.5 min.

    Without a Nest: Youth on her Own in Idaho
    Alexa: Asked and Answered


    (12/2019) 18-yr.-old Alexa lives in a dilapidated camper, often without heat, water and electricity, in rural Idaho. She's struggling to graduate from high school. She has hopes and dreams. 


    Companion piece: Alexa shares suggestions for her teachers and those who have students experiencing homelessness. Perfect for professional development. 

    5 min.


    5 min.

    Parking Lot Survival (12/2019) "Sara" and 6-yr.-old "Kenny" live in a small car with their beloved dog and cat in coastal Oregon. Spend a day with them to get a sense of what it takes to survive living in a car.  5 min.
    Positively Homeless (9/2019) A mother of 5 discusses her family's homelessness plight which is worsened by HUD's exclusion of families in motels. Part of the HEAR US 2020 VisionQuestproject. 5 min.
    No Place to Call Home: Hawaii's Youth & Families in Unstable Housing

    (12/2018) What is it like to be a homeless youth or family in Hawaii? This 19-minute documentary shares stories and observations from those who live on the streets and those who try to help. (Closed captions)

    Funded by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education program of the Hawaii Department of Education.

    19 min
    Yay Babies! CA (5/2018) Take a 3-min. look at the faces of babies and toddlers as they spend the day frolicking in a Sacramento daycare center that serves The Littles who are experiencing homelessness.  3 min
    Worn Out Welcome Mat: Family Homelessness in New Jersey (3/2018) New Jersey parents and kids share what it's like to experience homelessness and what school means to them. (20 min, low res) Funded by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education program of the NJ Department of Education. 20 min.
    My Biggest Fear (3/2018) Tamu shares what it's like to be homeless with her 4 children, living in a string of (not) cheap motels in rural New Jersey. Despite the hardships, she found a bright spot. 5 min. 5 min.
    I'm Not Just a Homeless Kid (2/2017) Samantha and Tricia, teen sisters with plenty of experience being homeless, offer their poignant thoughts on what it's like, what schools do and can do, and what they see as their future. 4-minute trailer.  4 min.
    (4/2018) Samantha and Tricia offer plenty of suggestions and insights for those wondering how best to assist youth in homeless situations. 50-min. podcast perfect for professional development. PDF discussion guide. 50 min.
    Other People's Places: Doubled Up - Eleanor (FL) (3.2016) Eleanor and her young son bounced around from relative to friend, finally being kicked out in a fit of exasperation by her sister. SW Florida has few shelters for families, and Eleanor's son has disabilities that would make shelter life extremely stressful. 5 min.
    Nowhere to Go: Family Homelessness in America (6/2017) This poignant look at family homelessness conveys the dire nature facing families with nowhere to go. The film, the most-viral video HEAR US has made, was produced for the congressional briefing to support the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2019 (HR2001).
     8 min.
    Big Hearts Needed:
    Oregon's McKinney-Vento Liaisons Share Wisdom 
    (6/2017) Oregon's McKinney-Vento homeless liaison team has been recognized as the best in the nation (http://www.icphusa.org/national/shadows-state-state-ranking-accountability-homeless-students/). This 13-minute video gives a glimpse at duties of the liaisons and lets them share invaluable advice to anyone thinking of serving in this special role. Big Hearts Neededis funded by Oregon Department of Education's McKinney-Vento program.  13 min.
    We Need a Little Time: Family & Youth Homelessness in Washington State (6/2018) Families and youth from across Washington State share what it's like to be without a place to call home. (16 minutes) We Need a Little Time is funded by the Washington State Office of Public Instruction's McKinney-Vento program. 16 min.
    What Does 'Homeless' Look Like: Family and Youth Homelessness in New Hampshire (4/2017) This video explores family and youth homelessness in the Granite State. Excellent film for professional development to help staff understand family/youth homelessness from the viewpoint of those experiencing it, and for anyone interested in learning more about family/youth homelessness. 18 min.
    Nowhere to Go: Idaho's Homeless Families and Youth (10/2016) This video gives voice to parents experiencing homelessness in the Gem State, Idaho. Shelters are scarce, as is affordable housing, leaving families scrambling. Funded by the ID Department of Education, McKinney-Vento program. 10 min.
    Time: Family and Youth Homelessness in the NorthWest (2017) A compilation of Diane's interviews from her 2016 Pacific Northwest trip. Perfect for a quick share!  5 min.
    Yay Babies!
    (2016) This  HEAR US short video is designed to inspire local awareness of and compassion for homeless babies. Share widely! 2 min.


    Title/Series Link, subject Length

    MyOwn4Walls logo 500

     My Own Four Walls (playlist)

     Contains 4 videos--

     My Own Four Walls children/youth talking about their homelessness and what school means to them, original full-length 

    > Life Filled With Benches (homeless youth)

    > Littlest Nomads (homeless babies/toddlers)

          > Littlest Nomads3 min. trailer

    > REACH (McKinney-Vento explanation for parents, guardians, etc.)

    My Own Four Walls trailer - Highlights from My Own Four Walls


    20 min.

    13 min.

    11 min.

    3 min.

    11 min.

    4 min.

    ote new FB logo

    on the edge                                                                                                       

    Highlights from the 7 women (including unaccompanied youth) who share their stories about homelessness.  >  4-min trailer   
    > 8-min trailer 
    > Feature length (60 min)
    > Columbia University School of Social Work students discuss OTE  


    60 min.


    Our Greatest Fear Christina, a mom in Sarasota, FL, describes their once-stable family's fall into homelessness.  4:40 min
    PA Homeless Families

    A courageous group of kids without homes in PA tell viewers just what it's like. They are among tens of thousands (yes!) of kids without homes in PA...and among millions (yes!) in the U.S. 

    4:30 min.
    Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS

    Explores doubled up homelessness among families and youth in Kansas. 

     (Funded by the Kansas Dept. of Education, McKinney-Vento program)

    20 min.

    Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS shorts


    Excerpts from KS interviews.

     > Hector Has His Say - young boy shares his thoughts about being homeless.

    > Melissa: It's All About Sex - Melissa and her 7-yo daughter have bounced between being doubled up, shelter, back to doubled up, their own place and more. Her story is a brutal one to watch, even worse to live.

    > Marine Mama - Candace, a Marine, and her 4-yo daughter tumbled into homelessness and have doubled up with family and friends, bouncing in and out of shelters, despite her best efforts to get on her feet.

    > Lifeline Needed- "Maggie" and her 2 teen daughters have bounced around from state to state, homeless because of domestic violence... a desperate situation.

    >Daughter's Drum Not Silenced - Senta thought her daughter would not be able to continue playing drum in the band when they lost their housing. This HEAR US McKinney-Vento Minute story shares a happy note in their upended world. 

    > Doubled Up, Desperate - Melissa and her 7-yo daughter bounced between bad-to-worse temporary places to stay in their 3 years of homelessness.


    1:30 min.

    4:00 min.


    2:45 min.


    2:00 min.


    1:30 min.

    1:00 min 

    Camp IBA!


    This 7-min. video shows highlights from one week of Camp IBA (Imagine! Believe! Achieve!), a project of Wichita School District 259's McKinney-Vento Homeless Education program. Filmed and produced by Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc. (June 15-19, 2015)

    7:00 min

    Splash! Kids at Camp IBA got to enjoy swimming on a hot KS day. Here's a delightful look at their fun.


    Worn Out Welcome Mat - TX

    Diane traveled all across Texas to interview families and youth living in doubled up situations.

    HEAR US Worn Out Welcome Mat TX project was funded by: The US Department of Education (USDE), the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Region 10, the University of Texas at Austin, the Charles A. Dana Center (UT Dana Center), and the Texas Homeless Education office (THEO).

    20:00 min

    Worn Out Welcome Mat - TX  


     Excerpts from TX interviews

    > Oyuki-Hard to Explain Homelessness - How does a mother explain to her young children that they don't have a home?  Oyuki shares her family's struggles with being doubled up and worse.

    > Ira's Story - Highly mobile, to say the least, Ira and his family are crammed in a small house with relatives. Being doubled up takes its toll on this impressive young man. 

    > Olga: Dreams and Dusty Roads - Olga and her 8 children were crammed in a small camper with her aging, infirm, impoverished parents in Donna, TX. That was bad enough.

    > Leia and Family - After losing their mobile home, Leia and her children have bounced around, dependent on others for a roof over their heads. 

    > Homeless in Donna ISD - Olga, a devoted mom with her 8 children, was living with her infirm, impoverished parents in a small, ramshackle camper. 

    > Ellen, Ellen, Your Fans Need Your Help!- Despite their dire homelessness situation, Olga and her 8 children lit up when they spoke of Ellen DeGeneres, smiling superstar talk show host. They expressed their invitation to Ellen to visit them in Donna, TX.


    4:00 min.


    2:30 min.


    4:00 min.

    2:30 min.

    4:00 min.

    4:00 min.

     Shelter You  The beautifully haunting music by Marybeth Saunders, I Will Shelter You, inspires viewers to respond compassionately with homeless families and youth.  4:00 min.
    We Had It One Day - Lupe's Story  Lupe shares her story of loss of housing and belongings, including having their belongings auctioned, including sensitive personal items. As millions of households fall into homelessness, storage facilities can be the solution, or add to the problem.   4:00 min
     Demise of the Oglethorpe Inn  Ousted Oglethorpe Inn (GA) tenants empty to the street in Feb. 2011. Part 2 is a March 2013 look at what happened. For more of the story, check out Diane's blog at AlterNet. http://www.alternet.org/speakeasy/diane-nilan/peach-state-legislators-accomplished-causing-homelessness  7:00 min.

     Many Faces of Homelessness


    Exploring invisible homelessness--families and youth--in support of the campaign to align HUD's definition of homelessness with that used by the US Department of Education (www.helphomelesskidsnow.org)

    > Ayele and Family Near Disney World- On a neon-lit strip near Florida's Disney World, homeless families mix with tourists in the same motels. Those homeless, like the 6 people in Ayele's family, cram together, eking out an existence that's easily upended. See the turmoil of millions of families and youth who will find themselves stuck in motel-homelessness. 

    > Brandy, Kenny and Kids- Brandy, Kenny and their 4 kids bounced around since Oct. 2011, stuck in the cycle of motel room after motel room, like countless homeless families. Determined to survive, they tough it out, but homelessness is taking a toll on their family life, shredding their marriage and upending their kids' stability. HUD wouldn't consider them homeless.

    > Alexis - Alexis found herself without a place to stay when she was 17. She examines what that meant to her and how she survived. She's one of millions of kids without a place to live. And her living with others is not considered "homeless" by HUD.

    > April - April and her family found themselves homeless and had to turn to a friend for a place to stay. That created hardships for her children, and would exclude the family from HUD housing assistance because they were not "truly homeless."

    > Pass Homeless Children & Youth Act - This short film shows why we need to pass HR 32, the Homeless Children and Youth Act.

    > So They Say- Homelessness for families and teens has long been ignored by Congress and HUD. From what they're proposing for the DEFINITION of HOMELESS, it's obvious that they don't understand the realities facing over 1.5 million homeless teens, children and families.

    > Preschool In Motels - Families, with no place to turn, sometimes end up staying in cramped motel rooms instead of living on the streets. This family, a mom with 5 children, struggles to make the best of their situation, which could be worse, and could be better. 

    4:00 min.



    2:30 min.



    2:00 min. 


    2:30 min.


    3:00 min.


    2:30 min.


    1:30 min.

     Life Is But A Dream The pitter-patter of little feet, the cooing of babies...not sounds typically attributed to homelessness, yet almost 50% of the over 1.5 million [now 2.5 mil+] children in America are under the age of 5.

    The Campaign to End Child Homelessness invites people to speak out on behalf of children in America who, with their families, have no place to call home. Life is but a Dream (music by Sara Thomsen, used with permission) provides the inspiration....

     4:30 min.
    Held By Angels  The comforting song, HOLY ANGELS, by the Three Altos (www.threealtos.com), wraps itself around HEAR US kids in My Own Four Walls(www.hearus.us).  3:30 min.
     Becky Blasts Homelessness Stereotypes  Homeless, with no shelter other than a small pop-up camper, Becky and her family in central Michigan endured months of brutally cold weather and multiple challenges to survival. This didn't stop her compassion and courage.   3:45 min.
    We Didn't Ask to be Here The story of one desperate family in Idaho--in 4 minutes you'll hear how bad things can get and how little help is out there.  4:38




  • 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.



  • 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)



  • Nowhere 2 Go


    The Homeless Children and Youth Act
    This bipartisan legislation addresses longstanding flaws in how HUD views and assists
    families  and youth experiencing homelessness. 

    Take Action Arrow LI2

    More info and a simple way to connect with your elected officials to let them know you want a change in existing policies. 

    > Schoolhouse Connection Legislative Info and ACTION


    The  HEAR US video, Nowhere to Go: Family Homelessness in America, gives viewers insight into thisaaron2 mostly invisible crisis of families experiencing homelessness. On June 6, 2017 in the U.S. Capitol, our 8-minute video premiered at a congressional briefing on family homelessness, in support of the Homeless Children and Youth Act .

    10-Minute Challenge: How You Can Help the Cause 

    • 8-minutes -- Watch, then share the video on social media. (Video link)
    • 1-minute -- Ask your legislators to co-sponsor the Homeless Children and Youth Act. (SimpleTAKE ACTIONlink)
    • 1-minute -- Ask your friends to do the same! 

    Extra Credit:

    About the Homeless Children and Youth Act 

    The campaign to improve housing options and services for families, the Homeless Children and Youth Act, is vital to reverse the unacceptable increase of this vulnerable population.

    HEAR US strongly supports efforts of this bipartisan campaign to change the way HUD addresses homelessness.

    Child and youth homelessness is different than adult homelessness. Homeless families with children and unaccompanied youth stay wherever they can. They often are forced to move frequently between living situations such as motels, or staying temporary with others temporarily, because there is no family or youth shelter in the community, shelters are full, or shelter policies exclude them. These children and youth face real harm, including negative emotional, educational, and health outcomes; they are at extremely high risk of physical and sexual abuse and trafficking. (SHC)

    For more information, see www.schooolhouseconnection.org

  • Other Stuff

    Homelessness is complicated. Diane's 250-word Other Stuff diagram is not the be-all-end-all word on family homelessness, but it certainly offers a more comprehensive way of looking at this growing issue. It’s meant as a conversation (and action) starter.

    HomelessChart FINAL

    To be clear, homelessness is much more than the dismissive “500,000 people sleeping on the streets” that gets tossed around by politicians and media.

    A recent report on the number of identified students experiencing homelessness in the US blasts that misguided 500,000 number out of the water. More than 1.5 million students were identified in 2017–18, a 15% increase over the last 3 years.

    “So, even though the data shows 1.5 million students as experiencing homelessness, the number could be greater.

    “Schools and communities need to know who is experiencing homelessness in order to help them succeed — and policymakers at all levels must prioritize action to support these invisible and often over-looked students,” Duffield said. (CNN, 2/2/20)

    And that’s the proverbial tip of the iceberg. (See How Many Kids are Homeless?)

    The way I see it, our “lazy” approach to addressing homelessness — dismissing it as MENTAL ILLNESS/ADDICTIONS — keeps us off the hook. Those issues are too hard, and besides, it’s up to the individual. Not so. My chart will upset this paradigm.

    • Legislators will need to get their hands dirty addressing the multiple issues that contribute mightily to this misunderstood national reality.
    • Communities can’t continue with business as usual and not be concerned about the pieces of this issue that could be fixed locally.
    • Schools can no longer ignore the issues that impact student success.
    • Health care entities — providers and insurers —must remove, not erect, barriers to health.
    • Property managers can’t keep making housing unattainable, keeping homelessness on the rise.
    • Journalists must delve into the underlying issues that push and trap people into homelessness.
    • All of us must give up thinking it’s someone else’s problem. It’s not. It’s all of us.

    My colleagues and I have a new college textbook out, Changing the Paradigm of Homelessness, that focuses on family homelessness in a way that has not been done before. Among other things, it explains how distorted the way HUD counts homelessness is, and how it contributes to the growth of homelessness.

    I wrote an op-ed column posted in the CT Mirror, including my Other Stuff chart. (11/2/20)

    You might be thinking “this is too complicated for us to deal with,” but let me point out a few painful realities:

    • Homelessness will not end, or be noticeably reduced until we put on our big girl and boy pants and do something about the many causes of this epidemic.
    • Speaking of epidemics, yeah, that coronavirus issue. Just what we need — a bunch of sick people without homes looking for a place to be sick. Some of these folks are working jobs in places you frequent. On the humane level, can you imagine being that sick and having no place to rest and recover?

    Might be time to ramp up solutions, STAT!

    (The above was written before the outbreak of coronavirus in early 2020 (Posted on Medium). The impact of this pandemic will ravage those at risk of homelessness as well as those already without homes. We wrote this postto call attention to the impact of this global crisis on kids experiencing homelessness.)

  • 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






    Restore Educational Access for Children who are Homeless
    Custodial parents without resources are lucky if they can make fragile arrangements for their children before heading to jail.

    Temporary caregivers--friends or relatives pressed into service at the last moment--might live away from where the family resided. Children at the caretakers may unnecessarily face loss of their school--their only familiar environment. Or the new school may refuse to admit the children because they are not "residents" of the new district.

    Often schools don't recognize that students with a custodial incarcerated parent may fall under the definition of homeless. Parents or caregivers typically do not identify the children's living situation as 'homeless.' Children, lives filled with chaos and pain, lose stability and security of their school at a time when they need stability the most. This loss intensifies their trauma, jeopardizing their educational success.

    REACH, a project of HEAR US, (based on the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Improvements Act) guides parents in jails and prisons to advocate for their children from behind bars:

    • A fast-paced 11-minute video  "REACH-Connect Your Children With Education" is available on the HEAR US YouTube page for free. It explains, in simple language, what the children's educational rights are and how the parent can help their children get into school. It's geared to inmates but is a perfect McKinney-Vento homeless education intro for staff and volunteers, as well as educators. 


  • Why is HEAR US needed?

     No national organization does what HEAR US does...
    gives voice and visibility to children and youth
    experiencing homelessness...

    Rumi testifies to congress

    Despite the reality that homelessness affects millions of families with children and youth on their own...

    Who listens to homeless kids?

    HEAR US was part of an unprecedented Congressional hearing that had homeless children and youth informing legislators about what it is like to face homelessness.

    Rumi (photo, left), an 11-yo from Pennsylvania, courageously shared his story to the legislators, and was so compelling that CNN invited him and Diane to be on the air two times following the hearing! 

    young boy talks about homelessness

    HEAR US is flexible enough to respond quickly to opportunities that share homeless families/youth stories of homelessness. This short video, PA Homeless Families, was quickly made upon request of a shelter director in Carlisle, PA, to share their kids' observations on homelessness with PA legislators.

    aaron tells of his family's homelessnessWhen asked to create a short, powerful video for a congressional briefing on families experiencing homelessness, HEAR US produced Nowhere To Go: Family Homelessness in America.


    Here's a list of HEAR US videos from across the country.

    Who knows much about homeless families?

    Homeless families are the experts about homelessness! HEAR US provides opportunities for homeless families and youth to tell their stories. Among the acclaimed documentaries HEAR US made early on:

    HEAR US facilitates opportunities for homeless children, parents and youth to speak with media.  

    HEAR US does this and so much more! This unique organization combines 40+ years experience working with homeless families, youth and individuals with the passion to advocate for systemic change.

    Since 2005, HEAR US has filled the gap, met the need, created useful, award-winning tools to raise awareness of and sensitivity to homeless children and youth, and insisted that homelessness can be alleviated.Your support is needed to continue the work of HEAR US! 


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