With America clashing, crumbling and careening into chaos as evictions and foreclosures displace millions, this is the perfect time for an antidote to the national apathy infection. Nonprofit organization HEAR US Inc. announces the the rolling start of their 30-Day Compassion Challenge, starting September, issuing an invitation for participants in this free, straightforward effort.
Family Homelessness: Invisible Enigma
“The best way to understand and respond to invisible family homelessness is to listen to parents and kids without homes,” pointed out Diane Nilan, HEAR US president.
One big contributor to the lack of compassion and inadequate resources is a dreadful lack of awareness of the extent of this largely invisible issue.
Nilan’s 30+ years of experience working on homelessness issues include running shelters and working on legislative campaigns to improve policies impacting homelessness. Speaking to lawmakers, educators, and audiences across the land, Nilan observed the widespread lack of awareness of homeless families. Determined to counteract the cluelessness, she created the 30-Day Compassion Challenge to inform and inspire local audiences.
The 30-Day Compassion Challenge simply asks participants to spend 3–5 minutes a day for 30 days watching one of the HEAR US videos (LISTED HERE). What happens after that is up to the individual.
Awareness Into Action
After watching these short videos, viewers will be inspired to turn their awareness into action. The response can be implemented locally, meeting the needs in the community and the ability of each viewer. HEAR US suggests a simple resource, The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids, filled with a plethora of practical ideas (See samples).
Homelessness: Worse Now Than Ever
Nilan and advocates nationwide have expressed dire concerns about the likelihood of massive increases of homelessness. Evictions and foreclosures have begun to surge, with little significant help for households economically devastated by the coronavirus crisis.
“Families will typically follow the pattern — bounce between families and friends, into motels, thinking this will be a short-term crisis. As time goes on, many will tumble deeper into homelessness,” Nilan described.
For the past 15 years, Nilan has traveled cross-country to chronicle stories of mostly invisible families and youth in non-urban communities for her national nonprofit HEAR US Inc.. Her film collection, including those for the 30-Day Compassion Challenge, are available on her organization’s website.
Now, more than ever, America needs to understand how widespread this crisis is so community leaders and legislators can develop appropriate responses. Nilan and her colleagues, Professors Yvonne Vissing and Christopher Hudson, recently published a college textbook, Changing the Paradigm of Homelessness. This text, combined with Nilan’s videos and her upcoming social narrative/memoir*, make a perfect family homelessness curriculum.
How Extensive is Family Homelessness?
Homeless families can be found in every community, far beyond those visibly homeless, and scorned, on street corners. Public schools have identified about 1.5 million students experiencing homelessness, a severe undercount. That pre-covid census does not include babies, toddlers, or older youth. HEAR US believes that the number could easily exceed 7 million, before the current round of housing displacements occurs. Despite their vulnerability, help for families remains sparse.
Don’t Think Shelters are THE Answer
Shelters are at capacity and it’s now common that shelters restrict new families because of covid-19. Many communities don’t have family shelters, especially in warmer months, and if they do it’s common that families split up with adult males and older boys staying in the male shelter. Plenty of shelters have unrealistic restrictions on length of stay. Most shelters have been requiring onerous admission steps to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
Shelters and other community efforts to alleviate homelessness need additional resources and support to meet the growing requests for help. A counter-surge of housing options for struggling families will do much to ease this crisis.
National Partnerships Forming
The HEAR US 30-Day Compassion Challenge will expand people’s understanding about the impact of homelessness and will inspire local actions. The 30-Day Challenge may be started at any time. The simple format allows for flexibility in schedules and it’s free, not requiring registration.
Hindu Charities 4 America, a national effort to provide educational resources for homeless students, recently issued the HEAR US 30-Day challenge to their supporters.
“Less than 5 minutes each day of watching this heartrending footage captured by Diane Nilan, can change the way we look at their lives — and possibly our own lives too…”
HC4A, an all-volunteer nonprofit based in Austin, TX, has chapters in Texas and California.
“Compassion is a natural response to the families you will see in my films,” guaranteed Nilan. Putting that compassion to action is inevitable.
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*Diane Nilan’s new book, Dismazed and Driven, a social narrative/memoir, is due to be released late September, 2020.