One of the defining elements of Sesame Street over the course of its nearly 50 years on the air is that its characters reflect the real-life faces and experience of the children in its audience. Now, the beloved educational program is bringing its first-ever homeless puppet to Sesame Street.
In a new clip, Sesame Street fans are reintroduced to Lily, a bright pink puppet with red multicolored hair who reveals to Elmo that she and her family no longer have their own home. You can check out the scene in the video above.
Technically, Lily is not a new character. The puppet was first introduced on the series in 2011 where she introduced the topic of food insecurity to young viewers. In those scenes, Lily explained to her friends that she and her family didn't have enough to eat. Now, it seems that the challenges that Lily's family was facing have intensified resulting in them leaving their home.
"Now we don't have our own place to live, and sometimes I wonder if we'll ever have our own home," Lily explains when talking sadly about the loss of her purple bedroom and how she and her family have been living in a variety of different places.
Lily's homelessness storyline is part of a new initiative from Sesame Workshop's Sesame Street in Communities program with the aim of helping deal with the stigma surrounding homelessness. It's sadly something that many children in the United States have to deal with. According to a 2014-15 report from the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health & Human Services, one in 20 children under the age of six have experienced homelessness (via USA Today). For those children, Sesame Street aims to provide hope -- something that, in turn, helps break the cycle of homelessness and trauma, according to a press release.
“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 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.”
That hope is something that takes the form of love and support from her friends. The scene above shows Lily being comforted by Sofia, the friend who is housing her family, while Elmo continues to treat her exactly as he did before finding out about her housing situation.
It's important to note that as part of the Sesame Street in Communities initiative, the scene and others like it will not air on the television version of Sesame Street. Instead, they are available on the initiative's YouTube page as resources for families, caregivers, and community support figures. And it isn't just video segments that are part of Lily's story. The initiative will include bilingual interactive elements and storybooks available for free. You can check out more information about Lily, as well as Sesame Workshop's Sesame Street in Communities initiatives here.
What do you think about the introduction of a homeless puppet on Sesame Street? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.