'Sesame Street' introduces first homeless character with new Muppet Lily storyline

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
Lily and Elmo talk about her living situation. (Image: Sesame Street/YouTube)
Lily and Elmo talk about her living situation. (Image: Sesame Street/YouTube)

Sesame Street continues to tackle important issues.

With its young audience in mind, the children’s show has educated about AIDS, incarceration and autism. Now it will be exploring homelessness in an online storyline involving the Muppet Lily. The character was first introduced in 2011 when it was explained that her family was experiencing food insecurity. In new clips posted online, the character now reveals her family is living with friends on Sesame Street because they lost their home.

“Now we don’t have our own place to live, and sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever have our own home again,” Lily says in one clip.

In a second clip, things are looking up for the little pink Muppet. Lily tells Elmo that her family was getting their own apartment after not having their own for a while.

“Lily is the first Muppet we’ve created whose storyline includes that she is experiencing homelessness,” said Sherrie Westin, the president of global impact and philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street. “When Lily was first launched, she came out as part of the food insecurity initiative. So she’s not brand new, but this seemed like a really perfect extension of her story, so that we could use her to help children identify with.”

Interestingly, the storyline won’t appear on televised episodes of the show. Instead, it’s part of Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Street in Communities program — and it will be featured online in videos, stories and other resources.

“With any of our initiatives, our hope is that we’re not only reaching the children who can identify with that Muppet but that we’re also helping others to have greater empathy and understanding of the issue,” added Westin. “The goal is really to give service providers, parents, teachers tools in order to address homelessness with children, in order to talk about it and raise awareness of the issue from a child’s perspective and also to help children experiencing homelessness feel less alone.”

Westin also said, “I think we tend to think of homelessness as an adult issue and don’t always look at it through the lens of a child, and we realize that Sesame has a unique ability to do that, to look at tough issues with the lens of a child.” (According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, about 1 in 20 children younger than 6 experienced homelessness from 2014 to 2015.)

Since Sesame Street debuted in 1969, it has addressed many social issues. Last year, we met the character Julia, who has autism. In 2002, the South African edition of Sesame Street introduced Kami, the world’s first Muppet with HIV. In 2013, the Muppet Alex talked about his father being in prison.

The show is being lauded on Twitter for the topical storyline. “Building #empathy among #children for a better generation to come,” wrote one supporter of the initiative.

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