Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Homeless Kydz and Nilan to Make Doorstep Delivery To Mr. Ryan

[Naperville, 8/28/13] If she could, Diane Nilan would amass 3,000 children outside the Janesville
district office of Mr. Paul Ryan, the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means committee. But she’ll only have about a dozen with her early Friday morning, Aug. 30.

This silver-haired advocate, with decades of experience working with homeless families nationwide, will park her unmistakable motorhome Tillie— her living quarters, office and vehicle—outside his office at 20 S. Main Street to represent not only the 3,000 homeless students in Ryan’s District 1, but also the 1 million+ homeless students in the U.S. She’ll deliver hundreds of petitions signed by people across the country urging Ryan to listen to what kids say about their homelessness.

“These kids are the tip of the iceberg, the canaries in the mine shaft, embodying the soaring poverty and homelessness among families and youth in our country,” lamented Nilan. “I can’t let him propose such draconian cuts in ignorance.” Billions would be slashed from vital programs that feed, house and heal homeless families if Ryan’s budget passes.

To make her point, Nilan will present Ryan, or his staff, with My Own Four Walls, an award-winning, poignant documentary she made featuring kids talking about their experiences of homelessness and what school means. She’ll also deliver the recently released American Almanac of Family Homelessness and hundreds of petitions signed by voters across the country.

Frustrated by the lack of hopeful signs at the hearing Ryan held a month ago, “War On Poverty: A Progress Report,” Nilan started planning. The hearing’s only credible witness, according to Nilan, was Sister Simone Campbell, the head of NETWORK, who has worked with people in poverty. She was given little time to make the case against offsetting the cost of war and tax cuts by ravaging the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

Since Janesville isn’t far from the western suburbs of Chicago where she parks in between her filming and speaking engagements, Nilan decided to make the trip. She invited the Congressman to ride with her for a tour of his district’s poverty and homelessness, but realizes his schedule might not permit.

For the past 8 years, this intrepid activist has traveled over 167,000 miles of mostly backroads, filming kids and families sharing what it was like to be homeless. She started HEAR US Inc., her nonprofit, in 2005 following a long stint of running shelters and working with schools to make sure homeless students were properly enrolled, fighting on their behalf if they were not. Nilan worked hand-in-hand with Republican (retired) Congresswoman Judy Biggert to enact the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act. So it’s not partisan, she’s quick to emphasize.

To fuel her fire, Nilan will spend Thursday evening with homeless families in Madison, filming their stories. “These kids and parents have a lot to say about their plight and promise, but lack the opportunity to share their wisdom,” she pointed out. “I’m their instrument.”

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 Contact Diane Nilan for more information: 630.267.5424

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ryan Says Obama's Out of Touch With Poverty; National Advocate Agrees and Offers to Take Congressman For Homelessness Tour

For Immediate Release:
HEAR US Implores Congressman Ryan to Consider Homeless Families/Youth 
in Budget Decisions; Will Deliver Stacks of Petitions and Compelling Testimony to 
Janesville Office Friday. 

[Naperville, IL, 8/26/13] The faces and voices of homeless children and youth not seen or heard in the Beltway will be quite visible in the Janesville district office of Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Friday, August 30 as Diane Nilan, a national advocate for this invisible population, delivers hundreds of petitions and provides compelling testimony from homeless parents and kids nationwide.

Nilan and her motorhome

Nilan, under the banner of HEAR US Inc., her national nonprofit created to give voice and visibility to homeless children and youth, has chronicled homeless families and youth for the past 8 years. She travels in, works from, and lives in a small motorhome, dubbed Tillie the Turtle, and has amassed over 167,000 miles since she first set out in 2005. Following 15 years running homeless shelters and 2 years working with Chicago area school districts to ensure homeless students’ access to school, she’s taken to the highways to raise this largely invisible issue to a more visible level.

“Maybe Congressman Ryan does not know that at least 3,000 students in his district have no place to call home,” Nilan pointed out. “Wisconsin has a huge homelessness and poverty crisis, and I want to urge him to address it.” Her concern, however, is the Congressman is poised to slash programs that provide survival level services for the most vulnerable.

Since Friday, Nilan has asked her widespread network to petition Mr. Ryan’s office, urging him to at least meet with her, if not take a ride to witness poverty and homelessness in his district. Participation in her petition drive indicates she’ll have hundreds to deliver. She’ll speak with WI families, and film stories of their homelessness prior to her Friday meeting. “Sadly, homeless families and youth in Wisconsin reflect what I’ve seen everywhere I’ve been,” she lamented. “The most tragic part of this is how Congress, both parties, has seen fit to inflict more pain instead of addressing the causes of this skyrocketing crisis.”

This determined woman points to national statistics that support her claim. The U.S. Department of Education reported over 1 million homeless students identified in 2011-12, a steadily increasing number, especially during the nation’s economic meltdown. Foreclosures, medically related bankruptcies and unemployment statistics add fuel to her fire. “I’ve seen more shuttered businesses, for sale signs, and desperate people in my 8 years than I would have ever imagined possible,” she stated. “For Congress to continue to ignore hundreds of millions of Americans, including millions of people without homes, in lieu of tax cuts for the richest households is unconscionable.”

In addition to the pile of petitions and heartbreaking stories from across the land, she’s counting on the faces of children that accompany her, both on her motorhome and as life-sized cardboard cutouts. This respected advocate will do everything in her power to bring those faces and voices to the decision makers who hold the power to make things better, or worse. “I will ‘afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted’ as much as possible,” she promised. And on Friday, she will deliver.

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Contact Diane Nilan, 630.267.5424