About the Authors
& the Three Melissas

The Authors:
Diana Bowman
& Diane Nilan

Diana Bowman and Diane Nilan, with over 75 years of professional work in the area of homelessness, understand that the real experts are those with lived experience. Diane’s 20 years filming families experiencing homeless through her nonprofit HEAR US is where she met these three extraordinary women named Melissa with much to offer on homelessness from a mother’s perspective. Diana, who spent 20 years leading a national project to help homeless students access education, and Diane had worked together on another helpful guide, The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids. This seemed like a perfect next project!

From interviews and discussions, Diana and Diane gathered the Melissas’ insightful and honest lessons into this unique handbook. Besides helping parents with practical tips that they would not find anywhere else, this book will enlighten those who want to learn about homelessness from mothers who know the challenges of surviving a host of challenges.

Diana, Diane, and the nonprofit HEAR US, will channel proceeds from sales of the books to the Three Melissas.

Meet The Three Melissas

Melissa A. from Illinois:

Poverty, frequent bouts of family homelessness while young, and childhood trauma combined to pave Melissa A.’s pathway to ongoing episodes of homelessness as a young teen mother with small children. She and her kids bounced around with friends and strangers, in her car, in hotels, and occasionally in homeless shelters. Determined to keep her family together, she often juggled three or four jobs at a time facing the challenge of finding care for her children while working and navigating homelessness. She learned the value of a dollar early on and became an expert in couponing, stretching her limited finances. Melissa, now 38, lives in a house surrounded with five of her children. She grapples with major health issues but continues to make ends meet.

Melissa N. from Florida:

Even before Melissa N. and her two young daughters and infant son were all displaced by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, they were homeless more often than not for years. They were placed in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer, still her family’s home. Little to no child support from the fathers of her children left Melissa in a constant state of poverty. The dark cloud of trauma and tragedy early on hung over her as she became a mother. Despite many challenges, Melissa attended an area university and graduated with honors. At age 53, her ability to work has been hampered by her need to take care of her son who has autism, and she still struggles financially.

Melissa T. from Kansas:

A dental hygienist by profession, Melissa’s life was impacted by a traumatic childhood. Her rough start led to fractured relationships with the fathers of her two daughters. By the time the girls were six and two, Melissa and her daughters plunged into homelessness. One daughter went to live with her father; Melissa’s younger daughter stayed with her. They endured a series of desperate housing arrangements, including a brief stay in a shelter, sharing housing with friends and sometimes strangers, due to the shortage of assistance in her rural community. After finally qualifying for subsidized housing, health problems and the need to support her daughter in school have kept Melissa, now 50, on the edge of homelessness. This determined mother finds ways to maintain their housing despite her extremely limited resources.