[Naperville, IL 11-7-15]
Kansas tornadoes, wind, rain, heat and cold. Heartbreaking stories of domestic violence, house fires, abject poverty and abuse. Diane Nilan blended these adversities into “Worn Out Welcome Mat - Kansas,” her latest documentary about the invisible crisis of doubled-up homelessness. Her efforts earned the Best Targeted Campaign Award from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), to be presented at the organization’s national conference Nov. 15-17 in Phoenix.
Nilan, president and founder of HEAR US Inc., the Naperville-based national nonprofit giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth, has been on the road for the past 10 years chronicling the plight and promise of homeless children and youth. Her experience as shelter director and advocate for homeless students shaped her creation of HEAR US, a unique approach to raising awareness about an epidemic issue. She lives in a van and has traveled over 240,000 miles of mostly backroads, filming and presenting to audiences from Congress to California to “give voice and visibility to homeless children and youth,” a subpopulation of homeless persons she believes is in excess of 3 million babies, toddlers, children and youth.
The Kansas State Department of Education homeless education state coordinator Tate Toedman invited Nilan to film doubled up families and youth to focus on the majority of Kansas homeless students. Of more than 10,000 homeless students identified by Kansas schools, over 80% experience doubled up, a much-misunderstood and under-identified situation. “Hardships experienced by doubled-up homeless students and families often escape the attention of school officials,” points out Toedman. “Families may just think they’re experiencing ‘hard times’ and don’t self-identify as homeless.”
Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS will be screened at the NAEHCY conference, and also in Manhattan, KS for National Homelessness and Hunger week. Nilan screened her documentary in Georgia and Mississippi on her “10th Anniversary-10,000 Mile” trek.
“The heartbreaking stories, told by the parents and students experiencing homelessness,” Nilan states, “will enlighten those who never thought doubled up was ‘so bad.’ It is worse than bad. And we urgently need to comprehensively acknowledge and address this issue.”
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