Diane  Nilan Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Diane Nilan


Diane Nilan has more than 3 decades of experience running shelters; advocating for improved state and federal policies; filming/producing award-winning documentaries, My Own Four Walls; on the edge: Family Homelessness in America; writing her reader-friendly book on homelessness, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness; and addressing audiences from Columbia University to Congress. Since 2005 she's lived in a van, traveling across the US chronicling family/youth homelessness.


 Author—Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness
 Award-Winning Filmmaker— My Own Four Walls; on the edge: Family Homelessness in America; REACH; Littlest Nomads; Worn Out Welcome Mat, films about homeless families/youth in TX, KS, OR, ID, WA, NH, NJ, HI
 Editor/photographer—The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids
 Activist, homelessness issues

2005-present HEAR US Inc. Naperville, IL, President and Founder
national advocacy organization to give voice & visibility to children & youth experiencing homelessness.
2003-2005 PROJECT REACH, 8 suburban counties outside Chicago, Founder and Director
lead liaison for McKinney-Vento implementation
1990–2003 Hesed House & Public Action to Deliver Shelter, Aurora, IL, Associate Director and
Program Director (Center for ministry to very poor and homeless persons)

Professional Affiliations Friends of Imiliwaha NFP (founding member, board of directors)


    BA, University of St. Francis, Joliet, IL

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Family Homelessness
    Youth Homelessness
    Homeless Education Laws and Policies

Personal Interests

    Interests Photography/videography, travel, reading, disc golf, kayaking, hot air ballooning



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Homelessness - Vissing - 1st Edition book cover


Public Seminar

Unpaid School Lunch Fees: The Tip of the Homelessness Iceberg

Published: Dec 07, 2019 by Public Seminar
Authors: Yvonne Vissing, Diane Nilan
Subjects: Education, Adolescent Studies, Family Studies

Lunch-shaming turned into an epidemic this fall, as it does every year when schools try to crack down on unpaid lunch fees. The trouble is, too often schools are bullying kids to fork over money that they really don't have to pay.


Nilan's Latest: Uncovers Hidden Family Homelessness

By: Diane Nilan
Subjects: Applied Arts & Music, Consumer Psychology, Education, Film and Video, Health and Social Care, Other, Psychology, Social Work

Dismazed and Driven ~ 
My Look at Family Homelessness in America  

Social Narrative Activist Manual

Diane Nilan's behind-the-scenes look at
families without homes in America. 

Follow Diane Nilan into broken-down RVs, leaky tents,
shabby motel rooms, and cramped shelters.  

Eleanor J. Bader, LA Review of Books, 12/23/20:

WHEN FORMER SHELTER DIRECTOR Diane Nilan sold her Illinois townhouse and most of her possessions in 2005, she set out to do what no one had ever done: travel the backroads of America to record the stories of the women, men, and children living doubled and tripled up, in cars, campgrounds, motels, shelters, and storage facilities throughout the country.

Her latest book, Dismazed and Driven: My Look at Family Homelessness in America (Charles Bruce Foundation), is part memoir, part social narrative, and part activist manual about what she calls “the plight and promise” of the 10 million undomiciled people she estimates have no permanent home.

Deeply personal — Nilan coined the word “dismazed” to capture her despair and amazement — the book is both inspiring and infuriating, a deep dive into the failure of US policymakers to tackle poverty and meaningfully address the affordable housing crisis. Her piercing observations chronicle bureaucratic bumbling, as well as political indifference and victim blaming. At the same time, Nilan pays homage to the many intrepid people she’s met, from homeless moms, dads, and children to the many advocates who are working tirelessly, even in a pandemic, to offer support and material comfort to those in need. The book is also prescriptive, with clear recommendations about what needs to be done.

Diane Nilan:
My Journey

I’ve spent 15+ years on America’s backroads chronicling the plight and promise of families experiencing homelessness. I’ve seen what countless Interstate travelers or those flying over don’t see. I’ve witnessed and documented the unheralded survival of courageous parents and kids whose homes have vanished for countless reasons. 

I’ve faced down and looked up to those with the power to change the system that perpetuates homelessness. My films show truths invisible to officials and decision-makers.

I’ve encountered America, good, bad and ugly - about 400,000 miles of it - in every state except Alaska. And I’ve done it living in Tillie, my little motorhome. 

More information, or to purchase Diane's books, www.hearus.us


Nowhere to Go: Family Homelessness in America

Published: Dec 07, 2019

Courageous parents and kids! In 8-minutes you'll grasp why family homelessness is so awful. This HEAR US video was screened at a congressional hearing on family homelessness. It is part of a national grassroots campaign to expand HUD's definition of homelessness. www.helphomelesskidsnow.org