Speaker to Address Youth Homelessness

April 7th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

Diane Nilan

Diane Nilan, founder and president of the national nonprofit organization HEAR US, will speak on the topic of “Children and Youth Homelessness: Why it Matters and What We Can Do” at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Nilan has more than 25 years of experience working with impoverished and homeless families, including running emergency shelters in Illinois and successfully advocating for the passage of “Charlie’s Bill,” the Illinois law guaranteeing homeless students educational rights.

She created HEAR US in July 2005 with the mission of giving voice and visibility to homeless children, youth and families. Four months later, after selling her home, her car and most of her possessions, she bought an RV and set out on a cross-country quest to put a face on the issue of youth homelessness. Over the course of a year, Nilan interviewed more than 75 homeless children and teens in 34 states. She partnered with filmmaker Laura Vazquez of Northern Illinois University to create a series of short documentaries titled “My Own Four Walls,” which won the National Association of Homeless Children and Youth’s Outstanding Media Award. The video, updated in 2012, has been distributed nationally to help school districts identify and assist homeless students.

Nilan and Vazquez went on to produce “On the Edge,” a documentary chronicling the struggles of seven women trying to escape homelessness in small towns and resort communities across America, and, most recently, “Worn Out Welcome Mat: Invisible Homelessness in Texas,” which examines the largest segment of the homeless population: those “doubled up” or staying with others because of loss of housing or other issues.

Nilan also wrote the book “Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness,” (Booklocker, 2005) and contributes to the homeless and poverty blogs invisible homeless kids, Change.org’s Poverty in America and Wanderings.

Nilan’s appearance at SUNY Oneonta is sponsored by the departments of Education and Sociology; the offices of Greek Life, Residence Life and New Student Services; the Center for Multicultural Experiences and the Public Events Committee.