Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Focus on Desperate Situations for Invisible DuPage Homeless Families


Diane Nilan, HEAR US                                  Jennie Gates, Bridge Event Manager         
630/267-5424                                                  630/545-0610, ext. 19            
diane@hearus.us                                                          Jennie.Gates@BridgeCommunities.org


Sitting on the corner of a sagging mattress in a “no-tell-motel” between two DuPage County towns, Diane Nilan listened to the logistical nightmare spelled out by parents of the 5 children crammed in this too-small room. No stranger to the plight of homeless families, she now shares these stories on the big screen, proud to be part of the 4th Annual Naperville Independent Film Festival.

On Monday night, Sept. 19, the award-winning documentary on the edge, which Nilan and Professor Laura Vazquez of Northern Illinois University filmed and produced, will fill the screen at Ogden Theaters, one of the official festival entries. This documentary focuses on seven women who share their stories of homelessness, much like the stories Nilan has heard over her past 25 years working with homeless adults and children, including those in DuPage County.

Nilan is the former director of the PADS shelter at Hesed House in Aurora and key influence for both the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act and the federal McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act. She has traveled over 126,000 mostly backroads miles in America for the last 6 years giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth under the banner of her nonprofit organization, HEAR US Inc. (www.hearus.us).

She explains the daunting statistics, “Way over 1.5 million children and youth are homeless, and the numbers are skyrocketing! Schools have identified a million students, but experience teaches that probably at least that many are unidentified.” Nilan worked for 2 years with 305 Chicago area school districts to help them comply with the McKinney-Vento Act, legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Judy Biggert (13-IL,R). From that experience emerged My Own Four Walls, Nilan’s first documentary featuring kids talking about their homelessness and what school means to them. HEAR US sells these DVDs and other awareness-raising items to organizations and the public.

The respected human service agency, Bridge Communities, Inc., a dynamic, grassroots, nonprofit organization committed to transforming the lives of homeless families in DuPage, is encouraging existing and potential volunteers and supporter to see on the edge so they better understand the stories behind the term “homeless.”  

Jennie Gates, event manager at Bridge Communities, adds, “The movie screening is a great kick-off for Sleep Out Saturday, Bridge’s flagship event that provides an opportunity for individuals, families, and community and church groups to actually do something about homelessness.  By sleeping out in tents, cars and boxes on November 5, participants will raise awareness of the plight of homeless families while raising much-needed funds to support the families in the Bridge program.”  More information about Sleep Out Saturday can be found at www.sleepoutsaturday.org.

All those attending this screening of on the edge will receive a memento from HEAR US to remind people of the need to assist this invisible population of families in DuPage and across the nation. 

The 60-minute film will be screened 8:20 pm at the Ogden 6Theaters, 1227 E Ogden Ave., $5. Both organizations will be on hand to answer questions. Nilan, the film’s producer, Vazquez, the director, and will do a brief Q&A following the film. For information, www.hearus.us, 630/225-5012, or diane@hearus.us

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