Women's History: Diane Nilan, a Voice for the Homeless
Last year, research showed that 1.37 million (39%) of the total homeless population are children under the age of 18. Given the increase in unemployment, we can only assume that number has increased this year. The transience of homelessness is difficult for the hardiest of souls, but it is especially hard on young people, who need consistency and a sense of safety and permanence to grow and flourish. Homelessness is a major problem; when it includes children, it’s a national disgrace.
Diane Nilan (photo, L) gave up her job as director of a Chicago homeless shelter in 2005. She sold her town house and bought an RV and video equipment to chronicle homelessness in America. Nilan is convinced that if she can shed a light on the type of people she met in her 15 years of shelter work, she can make homelessness a national priority.
Driving her RV, she has visited 48 states, in an 80,000-mile cross-country journey that has found her relentlessly chronicling poverty and homelessness. She uses film, blogs, her book and public appearances to give a voice to the homeless, especially homeless families and young people.
Her concern for homeless children is apparent in most of what she does. You can find it in the following post taken from her website (www.hearus.us):
“I've been working on the documentary, "On the Edge," with my colleague Dr. Laura Vazquez….The homeless and formerly homeless mothers we interviewed all point to a lack of child support payments as a major economic factor in not being able to provide for their families. Poverty and homelessness shouldn't be the consequence of a broken marriage, but too often it is.
This heartbreaking topic…illustrates a dysfunctional system. One mom I know and her two kids lived with little food and no money for essentials while dad pulled in a 6-figure income. …I've known dads made homeless because they couldn't afford to live on their wages after support payments were deducted.
Plenty of blame can be spread around…. And the devastated economy will continue to ravage both the payers and payees. The bottom line: the kids suffer the most."
The following short video allows you to hear about Nilan's work in her own words. You can find out more about Hear Us, the national nonprofit organization she has formed at: http://www.hearus.us I think you'll also like her invisible homeless kids blog (it's an eye-opener) : http://invisible-homeless-kids.blogspot.com/
There are many, many good and decent American, who give their time and personal funds to ease the suffering of others. Diane Nilan has taken it a step farther; she has made it her life quest.