‘Sesame Street’ Muppet ‘Lily’ aims to teach children about homelessness

After 49 years of being on air, “Sesame Street” will for the first time feature a Muppet who is truly homeless.

Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind “Sesame Street,” announced the addition on Wednesday, stating that it was to “offer help and hope to the growing number of young children across the United States who are experiencing homelessness,” as well as “help mitigate the impact of the trauma and stigma that result from homelessness.”

The show is reintroducing Lily, a 7-year-old girl whose family stays with friends on “Sesame Street” after they lost their home. Lily originally debuted in 2011 as a character with insecurities because her family didn’t consistently have food to eat.

Sofia and Lily
Lily, a 7-year-old muppet whose family stays with friends on “Sesame Street” after they lost their home, is shown seen with Sofia, who works at the local community center.Richard Termine / Sesame Workshop

The new initiative is a part of the “Sesame Street in Communities” program, which aims to educate children on relevant topics such as “school readiness to building healthy habits to tough issues such as divorce and hunger,” according to the program’s website.

(And while some fans may note that long-beloved character Oscar the Grouch is homeless, or at least house-less, since he lives in a garbage can, that is his choice.)

“We know children experiencing homelessness are often caught up in a devastating cycle of trauma — the lack of affordable housing, poverty, domestic violence, or other trauma that caused them to lose their home, the trauma of actually losing their home, and the daily trauma of the uncertainty and insecurity of being homeless,” said Sherrie Westin, president of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, in a press release. “We want them to know that they are not alone and home is more than a house or an apartment — home is wherever the love lives.”

Lily and Sofia
Lily with Sofia who works at the local community center.Richard Termine / Sesame Workshop

“When people think of homelessness they think of the stereotypical image of an older man on the street, but in fact there are a lot more families than people think with children in homelessness or on the brink of homelessness,” said Elizabeth Bowen, assistant professor of social work at the University of Buffalo and an expert on homelessness and youth homelessness.

“Homelessness isn’t a failing of the parent or the family, but a failing of society,” Bowen said. “Anything that can help change that narrative is good.”

After announcing its character, Sesame Workshop also announced it would be hosting an interactive conversation on Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube, which will feature a panel of expert providers to “raise nationwide awareness about homelessness, its effects on children, and ways providers can help.”

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