My Own Four Walls

  • 30-Day Compassion Challenge


    30 DayCC

    DDN Colorful camera

    I believe most people would do something to help the millions of families and youth experiencing homelessness if they knew how extensive and devastating this crisis is. As with other monumental issues, we just don't know what we need to know. This calendar will provide unprecedented  insights.
    author of Dismazed and Driven: My Look at Family Homelessness in America


    1.5 million students identified, and more than 7 million kids total, experience homelessness in the U.S.

    Use our free, web-based HEAR US Compassion Challenge to meet some of these kids and families, and learn firsthand from them about the impacts of homelessness on their lives. Knowing that time is precious, we've designed a simple process to increase the knowledge and compassion of people across cyberspace. Many of these stories are included in Diane's new book, Dismazed and Driven: My Look at Family Homelessness in America.

    • We will ask for about 5-minutes each day for 30 days(on your own schedule). Our calendar (below) offers an easy link to 30 short video stories featuring a family, youth, or a few people sharing their experience of homelessness. Watch, share, act.
    • You decide how you will respond to the videos.  We won't prescribe any specific action--do what you are best able to do--in thought, action, sharing, donating, sharing--something to create compassion. See our suggestions from The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids
      Act locally. Children, youth, and families within your community need your help. 

    The problem of family homelessness must be addressed on TWO levels--long-term and short-term:

    DC capitol reflect small

    1. Long-term Systemic Solutions. We strongly support the growing movement to align HUD's definition of homelessness with that used in the U.S. Department of Education (McKinney-Vento Act). Right now, HUD's limited definition excludes about 80% of families, youth and other adults experiencing homelessness which means they don't get the help they need to exit homelessness. For more info and to contact your legislators, go to

      Economic, racial, and a host of other issues also cause/contribute to/perpetuate homelessness (see HEAR US Other Stuff chart). HEAR US will call attention to these as feasible. Our one-woman organization doesn't pretend to have a grip on all that besets this vulnerable population in our country, but we team up with those who do (see Facebook info below). 

      Charlie book cover
    2. Short-term Immediate Relief. We all have basic needs--food, shelter, health care, education--to mention the obvious. Your community may/may not be trying to provide for these needs for struggling families. Even if they are, be assured the needs are greater than available resources. Our suggestions reflect knowledge from across the country--practical actions that will help families and kids in your community. (See The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids)Take Action Arrow copy

    Even if you can't get out and organize a drive or volunteer in other ways, you can do important things:

    • Get the attention of your legislators. Be assured that homelessness is a low-priority for most lawmakers. They don't think it's an issue. Your contact will help them pay attention. Here's one campaign HEAR US is working on.
    • Share good information on social media. This is constructive (and counters the rampant sharing of crazy stuff). We've seen countless examples of good things happening because of sharing. 
    • Follow Diane on Facebook. She occasionally posts on other social media, but FB is her daily venue where she shares stories directly related to family/youth homelessness and related issues. 

    The combined impact of good people across the country doing good will create goodness in the lives of families/youth experiencing homelessness and in your community. That's no small thing! 

    That's all we are asking! 


    Our Compassion Challenge page below has 30 sections, each with a brief explanation about the video, link and timing provided. You will choose to watch one video a day (about 5 minutes).  No special code, no cost--just watch one film a day. 

    The stories were all filmed and edited by Diane Nilan over a 15-year period of backroad travels across country. Participants willingly shared their stories with hopes that viewers would gain understanding and act compassionately when they encounter others in homeless situations. Anyone viewing these short videos for 30 days will attain knowledge about family/youth homelessness far beyond what most people know or understand.  Diane's new book, Dismazed and Driven, is based on these interviews she filmed during her 15 years of travel.

    Diane's Latest Book + Compassion Challenge

     Dismazed and Driven, Diane's memoir-social narrative! Watching the videos lets you meet many families in Dismazed and Driven.

    Stories in her book will open eyes and hearts to the issue of family homelessness through her unique account of her travels. (All proceeds from book sales benefit HEAR US Inc.

    Below we offer an easy connection to 30 stories featuring a children, youth, and familiessharing their experiences of homelessness. Watch, share, ACT! 


    Our Compassion Challenge Calendar effort will create the motivated Compassion Force needed to Paradigm coveralleviate the unimaginable amount of suffering caused by COVID-19 and the poverty and homelessness caused by the destruction of our economy. Viewers will gain an intimate knowledge of family homelessness from those who know it best--parents, children, and youth who live with no place to call home.

    This is a perfect "course" on family homelessness!  

    Diane's latest book, Dismazed and Driven +

    Compassion Challenge Calendar videos +
    our latest textbook, Changing the Paradigm of Homelessness =  
    a vibrant curriculum on family homelessness! 

    1 So They Say explores the issue of who is homeless. It's a bigger issue than you might think! Since the film was made, numbers of children/youth experiencing homelessness have skyrocketed. Dismazing! 

    video link

    2 min. 40 sec.

    2 Many Faces of Homelessness: Ayele and Family Near Disney World (FL) gives you a glimpse into one of many families in Mickey Mouse's shadow. Pat LaMarche narrates this film, giving a quick lesson on the importance of a better definition of homelessness, while Ayele explains how tough life in a motel really is. 

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    3 min. 50 sec.  

    3 Doggone Shame--Vet and Sons Homeless in Mobile, AL,  is another stereotype buster, this time as you "tour" a cramped, leaky RV, home to a Jason (a veteran), his 3 sons and their dog. 

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    3 min. 35 sec. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    4 Parking Lot Survival: Homeless Family with Nowhere to Go  Living in a car has become more prevelant as homelessness increases. "Sara" and her young son "Kenny" let Diane accompany them for a day. Wonder what it's like to live in a car? Filmed in OR

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    5 min. 35 sec. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    5 Worn Out Welcome Mat: Olga - Dreams and Dusty Roads takes viewers to a tiny town on the southern border of Texas where Olga and her 8 children cram in with her parents in their camper. 

     video link

    3 min. 52 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    6 Life is But a Dreamoffers a look at babies and toddlers--a segment of the homeless population often overlooked. These little ones are in a daycare facility that provides excellent care, but it's never enough. Filmed in MA

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    4 min. 25 sec.

    7 Many Faces of Homelessness - Alexis is a 18-year-old unaccompanied youth in the Phoenix, AZ-area, now with an infant. She describes her options. 

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    2 min. 9 sec. 

    8 Day at the Beach focuses on a family, with 2 small children, grapples with the painful realities of homelessness on the OR coast. They've bounced around from motels, family homes, and car. 

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    4 min. 12 sec. 

    9 Shelter You offers an inspiring look at various forms of homelessness for families  in shelters. Their a challenge. 

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    4 min. 26 sec. 

    10 Becky Blasts Homelessness, with no shelter other than a small pop-up camper, Becky and her family endured months of brutally cold weather and multiple challenges to survival in central Michigan. This didn't stop her compassion and courage.

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    3 min. 42 sec. 

    11 PA Kids Share their Wisdom  A courageous group of kids without homes in PA tell viewers just what it's like. Spend 4 minutes with them, then share. They are among tens of thousands (yes!) of kids without homes in PA...and among millions (yes!) in the U.S.

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    4 min. 33 sec.

    12  Little Littlest Nomads - a short version of the 11-min. HEAR US film, Littlest Nomads, features homelessness from the viewpoint of little kids. 

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     3 min. 05 sec.

    13 Desperate in OR: Homeless Families and Youth- features a grandmother and her granddaughter, a mother with kids, and an unaccompanied youth sharing their experiences of homelessness.  

     video link

    4 min. 48 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    14 Invisible Homeless Families- 3 Moms, 9 Kids in Idaho  takes you to a very small town in rural Idaho, where 3 courageous women each with 3 kids shared their stories of homelessness, all doubled up. You'll catch on to the fact that family homelessness is much more prevalent than most realize. and resources scarce.

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     6 min. 38 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    15 Hector Has His Say lets you hear from a young child about his experience of school and how homelessness impacts his life. Filmed in KS.

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    1 min. 27 sec.

    16 Our Worst Fear  tells how Christina and her family went from living in a "normal" nice home in Sarasota, FL, to bouncing around in many forms of homelessness, all because of an unexpected medical emergency. She astutely explains the basics.

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    4 min. 40 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    17 Alexa: Asked and Answered  finds this high school senior covering the main topics of what it's like to be homeless on her own, living in a camper with no utilities, good and bad. Big stuff and little stuff. Filmed in ID.

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    4 min. 46 sec. 

    18 NCSU Food Insecurity and Homelessnessgives 3 university students who've experienced homelessness and poverty the opportunity to explain the challenges of succeeding in school while balancing survival.  

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     3 min.

    19 Ride It Out - Hurricane Michael's Carnage conveys the widespread destruction in the Panama City, FL area in 2018 that left many families homeless. Rosie, a mom with 2 daughters, describes her family's experience during and after the storm. 

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    4 min.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    20 We Didn't Ask to be Here explains Byron, as he describes how he, his infirm wife, and kids went from housing stability to grueling homelessness in an unexpected heartbeat. He points out the injustices and the difficulties of finding help in Idaho.

     video link

    4 min. 38 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    21 Worn Out Welcome Mat - Marine Mama  Nothing in her Marine training prepared Candace for what she and her daughter went through as they lived in their car and doubled up before moving into a shelter. Filmed in KS.

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    2 min. 44 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    22 We Had It One Day laments Lupe as she describes how shock of homelessness hit  her family. They did the best they could in response to it. Like many, they put their belongings into storage and moved into a motel, thinking it would be a short time until they returned to normal. Filmed in CA.

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    3 min. 55 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    23 Many Faces of Homelessness: Brandy, Kenny and Kids explores how Brandy, her husband, and their 4 kids have bounced around in small motel rooms for years. The toll it's taken on her family is obvious and devastating. Filmed in FL.

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    2 min. 35 sec. 

    24 Worn Out Welcome Mat: Oyuki gives an agonizing look as this mom grapples with explaining to her young children why they're living in parks and abandoned buildiings. School is a haven. Filmed in TX.

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    4 min. 34 sec.

    25 My Biggest Fear - Mom Shares Impact of Homelessness on Family illustrates how Tamu and her 4 children went from normal life as a family to homelessness, doubling up until that didn't work, then into expensive NJ motels. 

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    4 min. 55 sec.

    In Dismazed and Driven

    26 Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS: It's All About Sex shows how Melissa figured this out early on in her family's homelessness. They bounced from doubled-up situations to shelter to horrible doubled-up situations. 

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    3 min. 57 sec.
    In Dismazed and Driven

    27 Many Faces of Homelessness: April  tells how layoffs pushed this family into homelessness, doubling up, then into a shelter in Phoenix, AZ. April explains the pitfalls of doubled-up situations. 

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    2 min. 32 sec.

    28 Preschool in Motels: DuPage County (IL) Family Struggles to Survive Homelessness shows in 90 seconds what families with young children do for "school" from their motel room. 

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    1 min. 30 sec.

    29 Worn Out Welcome Mat - TX: Leia and Family illustrates that doubled-up living is much harder than most realize. Leia describes some of the challenges she and her family endured. 

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    2 min. 28 sec. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    30 Positively Homeless: Family Homelessness in Americaexplores how  Nicole, her husband, and their 5 kids hit a rough patch and did what most people do - turn to friends for help. That didn't work out, and the HUD homeless definition and requirements became the barrier that kept them homeless in expensive motels. Filmed in MI.

     video link

    5 min. 

    In Dismazed and Driven

    If you are moved to help children, families, youth experiencing homelessness,
    check our suggestions from The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids.

    ote new logo FBCONGRATULATIONS! You made it!

    Now you graduate to our advanced program!OTE 7 women

    Watch on the edge: Family Homelessness in America(OTE, 1 hr.) 
     (Several women in OTE are in the Dismazed and Driven book) 



  • Compassion Epidemic

    30 DayCC 

    Join the HEAR US 30-Day Compassion Challenge




    HEAR US has plenty of powerful videos and books.
    Watch and share! 

    Take Action Arrow LI2


    The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids

    by Diana Bowman

    Charlie-book cover


  • My Own Four Walls '05


    My Own Four Walls...
    ...the first and best film
    HEAR US ever made!
    My Own 4 Walls logoFilmed by
    Diane Nilan

    Edited by Dr. Laura Vazquez, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, and her filmmaking students. 

    (c) 2007


    My Own Four Walls, Diane's first film, before she knew anything about filmmaking or RVing. 

    Back in 2005, Diane set out on an improbable journey across the US to capture images and wisdom from kids experiencing homelessness. 

    She went to places not thought of as having homeless kids--small towns, mid-size cities, rural areas, resort communities--and was connected to plenty of kids willing to share their stories. She got parental/guardian permission and then just let the kids talk. 

    In March 2007, My Own Four Walls was released. 

    The original DVD contained 4 videos. Those are now available on a YouTube playlist.

    Discussion Guide

    Perfect film to train school staff on the importance of the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act!

    Ideal for all ages.  

  • Why is HEAR US needed?

     No national organization does what HEAR US does...
    gives voice and visibility to children and youth
    experiencing homelessness...

    Rumi testifies to congress

    Despite the reality that homelessness affects millions of families with children and youth on their own...

    Who listens to homeless kids?

    HEAR US was part of an unprecedented Congressional hearing that had homeless children and youth informing legislators about what it is like to face homelessness.

    Rumi (photo, left), an 11-yo from Pennsylvania, courageously shared his story to the legislators, and was so compelling that CNN invited him and Diane to be on the air two times following the hearing! 

    young boy talks about homelessness

    HEAR US is flexible enough to respond quickly to opportunities that share homeless families/youth stories of homelessness. This short video, PA Homeless Families, was quickly made upon request of a shelter director in Carlisle, PA, to share their kids' observations on homelessness with PA legislators.

    aaron tells of his family's homelessnessWhen asked to create a short, powerful video for a congressional briefing on families experiencing homelessness, HEAR US produced Nowhere To Go: Family Homelessness in America.


    Here's a list of HEAR US videos from across the country.

    Who knows much about homeless families?

    Homeless families are the experts about homelessness! HEAR US provides opportunities for homeless families and youth to tell their stories. Among the acclaimed documentaries HEAR US made early on:

    HEAR US facilitates opportunities for homeless children, parents and youth to speak with media.  

    HEAR US does this and so much more! This unique organization combines 40+ years experience working with homeless families, youth and individuals with the passion to advocate for systemic change.

    Since 2005, HEAR US has filled the gap, met the need, created useful, award-winning tools to raise awareness of and sensitivity to homeless children and youth, and insisted that homelessness can be alleviated.Your support is needed to continue the work of HEAR US! 


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