The character Lily, who is 7, was introduced as a child whose family lost their home. She was originally described as being "food insecure" because her family lacked consistent access to food, but Sesame Workshop expanded her story line to include her family staying with friends on Sesame Street.
As Sesame Street celebrates its 50th Anniversary, it continues the tradition of introducing topics and characters that tackle difficult issues for young children.
Sesame Workshop's new initiative -- part of Sesame Street in Communities -- is designed to offer help and hope to the growing number of young children across the United States who are experiencing homelessness, as well as help community service providers, parents, and caregivers give children, especially the most vulnerable, a strong and healthy start.
The initiative engages children and families with the resilient and relatable Lily, as the rate of young children who do not have a permanent place to live has been steadily growing.
More than 2.5 million children are experiencing homelessness nationwide, and nearly half of those children are under the age of 6.
According to the Office of Head Start, there has been a 100 percent increase in enrollment of children experiencing homelessness in Head Start and Early Head Start programs over the past decade, with 2016-17 marking a record number.
Through the new initiative, Sesame Workshop offers a variety of free, bilingual materials specifically developed to help children who are experiencing homelessness, which often involves an ongoing cycle of physical, emotional, and psychological distress.
The resources were created in partnership with national experts on family homelessness and tested with both providers and parents.
Sesame Workshop is implementing Sesame Street in Communities in Kansas City, MO and KS; Los Angeles, CA; Guilford County; NC; Transylvania County, NC; Memphis, TN; Leland and Indianola, MS, and, in 2019, Camden, NJ.
Sesame Street in Communities aims to reach 4.5 million children under age 6 and their families connect with more than 11,000 direct service providers, develop 200 national and local partnerships, and expand to at least 35 additional communities across the country.