Wednesday, September 29, 2010

HEAR US Issues Invitation to Students and the Public: Hear Homeless Women

HEAR US, a national nonprofit organization based in Naperville, is issuing an invitation: Explore the reality of homelessness as experienced by millions of invisible women and children who comprise the bulk of this nation’s homeless population. HEAR US Inc. will screen a new in-depth, powerful documentary film, “on the edge,” on October 29 at North Central College. 

Knowing that college and high school students struggle to find comprehensive information about homelessness, HEAR US president and founder Diane Nilan (pdf) decided to invite Fox Valley area students to this special premiere screening of this new film. Nilan, former director of the shelter at Hesed House, has spent the past 5 years traveling backroads of America chronicling the plight and promise of homeless families and youth. She created HEAR US, her nonprofit organization, and sold her home, car and most possessions to buy a small RV which has served as her home/office, and started her unlikely mission to give voice and visibility to homeless kids. 

Nilan teamed up with a documentary professor at Northern Illinois University, Laura Vazquez, who provided technical expertise to produce Nilan’s first film, “My Own Four Walls,” a 20-minute documentary of kids talking about their experiences of homelessness. The duo then set out for a more ambitious film, the story of family and youth homelessness told by women. For the past 4 years, they have pursued this goal, and proudly announce the release of “on the edge,” a 60-min. film, scheduled to be screened at the Oct. 29th Tribute to Mary Lou Cowlishaw at North Central.

The film will be shown at NCC’s Madden Theater. HEAR US asks for free will donations. Nilan and Vazquez will answer questions at the end of the 7:15 and 9:00 screenings. Because of limited seating, HEAR US asks that a representative of the school email or call with an approximate number of students planning to attend and the screening time desired. 

Nilan’s book, “Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness,” and the film “My Own Four Walls” will be available for purchase at this event. More information may be found at, or by emailing Diane at

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2nd Emmy Nomination for HEAR US Story

Mark Saxenmeyer of Chicago Fox TV should just hang out with Diane Nilan of HEAR US. His reporting on Diane's maiden voyage earned an Emmy back in 2006. His story about HEAR US that ran in Nov. 2009 has just been nominated for an Emmy. That story was picked up by Huffington Post, generating a range of comments. It also ran in several cities on Fox affiliates.

"Mark can do a story about HEAR US and the problem of homeless kids anytime," responded Diane Nilan. "He gets it." Nilan has spent over 5 years on  mostly backroads across all 48 states in the continental US chronicling homelessness and poverty.

Nilan has spent the past 5 year lives in her modest RV, "Tillie," focusing on homeless families and youth. "My Own Four Walls," her first documentary, won national recognition. She and video partner Dr. Laura Vazquez, professor at Northern Illinois University, collaborated on My Own Four Walls, and will soon be releasing a feature length documentary, "on the edge," seven women's stories about their homelessness.

HEAR US and North Central College have scheduled a tribute for recently deceased Mary Lou Cowlishaw, longtime legislator from Naperville and the "mother of homeless kids" for her role in improving homeless kids' access to education in Illinois and nationwide. The event, Oct. 29, will be held at North Central's Wentz Concert Hall, Madden Theater, beginning at 6:00 pm. A special preview screening of "on the edge" will be offered two times that evening. The 9:00 screening will hopefully be attended by high school and college students.

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