Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscars Awarded, Mothers' Day Plans Ahead

[Naperville, IL, 2/28/2012] "Better than an Oscar," proclaims Diane Nilan, producer of on the edge: Family Homelessness in America. She's referring to the announcement that their award-winning documentary featuring 7 women's stories of homelessness qualified to be shown on Mothers' Day on PBS stations nationwide.

Nilan and film director Laura Vazquez, Northern Illinois University professor in the Communication Department, see the Mothers' Day opportunity as one that will change the nation's perception of homelessness. Their hour-long film unfolds around the women's stories, reflecting circumstances similar to many invisible mothers and daughters who struggle with poverty, domestic violence, failed foster care, substance abuse, and inadequate housing. OTE has won major film festival awards and has been screened in communities across the U.S., including Congress, since its release in November 2010.

Mothers' Day represents both a symbolic holiday and a tremendous opportunity for local communities to  focus on this much-ignored and soaring issue. The challenge: to get PBS affiliates to schedule the film, which has received preliminary approval from the PBS pipeline, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Stations respond to viewers' requests, something both women are confident will flow when word gets out.

The high level of invisibility has kept women and children out of the nation's conscience and thereby inadequately assisted by federal housing resources, according to Nilan, a former shelter director. "Congress, for the most part, does not know we have millions of women and children without homes."  For the past 7 years, she has traveled the nation's backroads, chronicling homelessness of families and youth, and she's developed a sizable following of educators, college students, and parents and youth without homes through her nonprofit, HEAR US Inc.

"We've done everything we can to get these women's stories heard and seen. All we need is people to take a few moments to connect with their local station," urges Vazquez. The HEAR US website ( has all the information and links needed.

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