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Sesame Street, the groundbreaking kids show that launches its 50th season next year, hit another milestone on Wednesday when it introduced the first homeless character.
Lily, a pink Muppet with multicolored braids whose favorite color is purple, debuted in 2011 to introduce the topic of food insecurity. At the time, she talked about her family not having enough to eat. In a new segment that debuted on the Sesame Workshop YouTube channel (watch below), Lily becomes sad while painting a rainbow with Elmo and Sofia, a human character who works at a local community center. In explaining her feelings, Lily, who is 7 years old, reveals that she and her parents have lost their home.
“We don’t have our own apartment anymore and we’ve been staying in all different kind of places,” she explains.
The segment is part of the Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Street in Communities initiative and available on the organization’s YouTube page. The segments do not air on the television version of the show. Rather they are meant as resources for families and caregivers in tackling particularly difficult issues. Jon Legend, an advocate for prison reform via his FREEAMERICA organization, recently participated in a segment, timed to the holiday season, with children whose parents are incarcerated.
Lily’s story will also include interactive activations and storybooks — all bilingual and free to parents, caregivers and teachers. Homelessness is a growing problem in America. More than 2.5 million children experience homelessness, and more than 1.2 million are under the age of 6. There has been a 100 percent increase of children in Head Start and Early Start programs over the last decade.
“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. “We want to help disrupt that cycle by comforting children, empowering them, and giving them hope for the future. 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.”
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