'Sesame Street' Introduces First Muppet Who Is Homeless

Lily, a 7-year-old character first featured seven years ago, will face homelessness and teach kids about it.

“Sesame Street” is introducing a new storyline for one of their Muppets in an effort to raise awareness of a key issue facing many Americans: homelessness.

On Tuesday, Sesame Workshop, the show’s nonprofit educational arm, announced that one of the show’s characters, Lily (who was first introduced in 2011), will experience homelessness. The 7-year-old Muppet’s family will be staying with friends after having lost their home. In the past, her story had included her family’s struggle with food insecurity.   

While Lily won’t be on the “Sesame Street” TV show, her story will be featured in YouTube videos, books and other educational materials for families and educators to discuss homelessness with kids.

The group’s hope is that by sharing the story of a child experiencing homelessness ― a reality for many kids across the country ― it will “help mitigate the impact of the trauma and stigma that result from homelessness,” a press release said.

“We know children experiencing homelessness are often caught up in a devastating cycle of trauma — the lack of affordable housing, poverty ... and the daily trauma of the uncertainty and insecurity of being homeless,” Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s president of global impact, said in the 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.”  

Homelessness is an issue many Americans face nationwide amid the country’s affordable housing crisis. Last year, more than 500,000 people were homeless across the country on a given night in January, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. About a third of those who were homeless nationwide were people in families.

New York City, where “Sesame Street” takes place, reached a record high for homelessness last year, with an average of 63,495 people sleeping in the city’s shelters each night, according to the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless. Three-quarters of those in shelters were families, including 23,600 children.

“You know how me and my parents haven’t had a place to stay for a while?” Lily tells Elmo in a video Sesame Street posted on Twitter. She then shows him some bracelets her mom had made her. “Every time she would make a bracelet and put one on she would say, ‘We can get through anything as long as we’re together. We got this!’”

As news of “Sesame Street” launching its first homeless character hit the internet, some fans protested that Oscar, the Muppet who lives in a trash can, was homeless already. But others were quick to correct that previous “Sesame Street” shows and books had shown that Oscar’s trash can was simply an entrance to a larger home, which at certain points included a swimming pool, a piano and more.