Saturday, November 15, 2014

NIU Students To Rally for Homeless Children and Youth; Launching HEAR US 10th Year

HEAR US founder Diane Nilan stands alongside
her new motorhome, which serves as her home,
office and vehicle.
[Naperville and DeKalb, IL, Nov. 15, 2014]  Nomadic activist Diane Nilan will enlist students at Northern Illinois University in a grass-roots campaign to increase awareness of homeless families and youth as she screens her latest documentary, Worn Out Welcome Mat, on Nov. 18 for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. 

Nilan launches her 10th year on the road with this NIU event. On Nov. 18, 2005, this former shelter director set out on a quest to chronicle the invisible issue of family and youth homelessness nationwide. She sold her townhouse and purchased a small motorhome which she's lived in since then. Nilan started her nonprofit HEAR US Inc. to give voice and visibility to millions of babies, toddlers, children and youth. NIU professor Laura Vazquez has partnered with Nilan to create several award-winning documentaries. 

Worn Out Welcome Mat features families and youth living in doubled up situations, the most common and most misunderstood manifestation of homelessness. This 20-min film exposes the myths commonly attributed to those with nowhere to go who bounce around in tentative arrangements to avoid sleeping on the streets. Several homeless teens shared their stories.

HEAR US Inc. has actively solicited support for the Homeless Children and Youth Act, a measure being considered in Congress to force HUD to expand their narrow definition of “homeless” to include those doubled up and in non-sheltered situations like motels and campgrounds. Participants at the film screening will be asked to petition their member of Congress to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation.

“Tragically, millions of invisible youth and families pay the price for HUD’s unwillingness to address the true scope of homelessness in America,” Nilan points out. Students can make a difference by their simple act of contacting their Representative, a task made easy on the Take Action page of the website

The National Coalition for the Homeless created National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week to encourage non-homeless persons to reflect on the inequities of food and shelter in the United States. Last year over 700 groups participated. NIU has several activities planned for the week. Nilan serves on the board of NCH.

The film and short discussion will take place from 3-4 pm in the Holmes Student Center, Room 305. This event is cosponsored by Poverty & Inequality Research-to-Action Collaborative, Center for NGO Leadership and Development, Department of Psychology, and Department of Public Administration. Admission is free. For information, call the NGOLD Center at 815-753-4410.

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