Monday, April 21, 2008

My Own Four Walls 2008 Offers Extensive Look at Homelessness

HEAR US Inc. announces the release of My Own Four Walls 2008, an expanded version of their acclaimed My Own Four Walls DVD, which gives homeless children and youth the opportunity to share their observations on homelessness.

My Own Four Walls 2008 is a DVD collection of short documentaries depicting homelessness as experienced by children and teens in non-urban areas of the country. It was filmed and produced by HEAR US Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to giving voice and visibility to homeless children, youth and families.

These young homelessness experts share their challenges and their dreams, common to over 1.5 million children and youth in this country who typically remain invisible, struggling to get into and succeed in school.

The My Own Four Walls 2008 DVD contains several short pieces:

§ “My Own Four Walls (the stories),” a 20-minute compilation of elementary, middle and high school students sharing their observations on homelessness.

§ Elementary, middle and high school segments (8-10 minutes each) of students talking about homelessness and education. Included in these segments are references to the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act.

§ “Life Filled with Benches,” a short (13 min) inspiring glimpse of 2 teens on the streets of Harrisburg, PA.

§ NEW! “Beneath the Surface,” a 23-minute documentary exploring the life of a homeless teen in a suburban community. (This new selection was filmed and produced by Phil Ridgway, Chris Kelly and Susan Carlson, documentary students at Northern Illinois University.)

§ NEW! Also included are links to 2 specially-created guides (PDF) to help viewers learn more about homelessness.

MOFW, Benches, and Beneath the Surface are suitable for a variety of audiences, including student bodies, educators, administrators, non-certified personnel who come into contact with homeless students, and the general public. All who view it will walk away with a deeper sense of how homelessness affects the invisible homeless population in communities nationwide.

Price and purchase information may be found at the HEAR US website.

MOFW received the 2007 Outstanding Media Award from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (

# # #

Heart-Ripping Tales of Homelessness from Young Experts

Unabashed testimony from children and teens who know homelessness first-hand will change the way this country approaches this issue. Diane Nilan, a national activist echoes the challenge of over 1.5 million homeless young people, “HEAR US!”

HEAR US Inc. announces the release of My Own Four Walls 2008, a compelling documentary series depicting homelessness in little known locales across the nation. The DVD is available for sale through the HEAR US website,

In fall of 2006 Nilan sold her suburban Illinois townhouse and possessions and moved into a 27’ RV which serves as her home, office and vehicle. She started HEAR US, a national nonprofit based in Naperville, IL, to give voice and visibility to homeless kids.

After raising enough money to get started she has logged over 60,000 miles, mostly backroads, calling attention to the overlooked issue of homelessness in non-urban areas. She singlehandedly filmed over 75 interviews with homeless children and teens to create a video awareness tool, My Own Four Walls.

Fueled by 15 years experience running busy suburban homeless shelters and over 20 years advocacy, Nilan admits, “I had no idea of what I was getting into.” She never operated a video camera or RV before this trip. “All I knew was that something must be done to shine a light on homeless families and youth.” More about the journey…

In June 2006 when Nilan returned to Naperville, she was introduced to Dr. Laura Vazquez, a Northern Illinois University documentary professor, who not only agreed to help Nilan compile the interviews into a documentary and but also offered to take a sabbatical and collaborate on a feature-length film examining homeless families. Nilan jumped at the opportunity. They currently are filming “On the Edge” in various parts of the country.

Feedback on My Own Four Walls has been heart-warming. “This powerful and poignant documentary takes an intimate look at the issues faced by homeless children and puts a human face on the problem of homelessness,” states Professor Markus Redding, Columbia University School of Social Work. “Their inspirational stories of resilience and survival in the face of great adversity show the power of the human spirit. This documentary will change views of homelessness in America.” Nilan and over 1.5 million homeless kids sure hope so.

# # #