The historic children’s program ‘Sesame Street’ will include for the first time a homeless character along with the usual ‘muppets’, such as the endearing Elmo and Big Bird. An initiative that those responsible for production have promoted to give voice to the growing community of children without access to their own home in the US. The new character, who is called Lily, is a small puppet of a bright pink color, who lives with her family from hostel to hostel for not having access to a home of her own.
‘Sesame Workshop’, the nonprofit producer of the program, launched the character of Lilly in a 2011 special in which she was presented as a 7-year-old girl with food insecurity (without access to a proper diet for a healthy life ). Seven years later, the creators of the series have rescued the character to develop their history and to address the problem of homeless families in the US.
“Lily is the first character we have created that includes the problem of homeless families,” said Sherrie Westin , president of Sesame Workshop. In fact, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report that showed that homelessness is increasing throughout the country: in 2017, a total of 553,742 homeless people were counted in one night ; an increase of 0.7% compared to 2016.
Growing social problem
The story of Lily and her family will be broadcast in three separate videos on the ‘Sesame Street’ YouTube channel. But in addition, educational material will be created so that teachers and social workers can deal with this issue with their students. The ultimate goal of these videos and books is for children to be more sensitive to the serious situation of being homeless, and to help others who are suffering from this experience not to feel alone.
According to the US Department of Education, in the 2013-14 school year , more than 1.3 million homeless children and youth enrolled in public schools. Although there are no official figures for the lack of consensus on how to define the lack of housing, it is estimated that between 500,000 and 2.8 million young people are homeless in the US.
Since the launch of ‘Sesame Street’ in 1969 , the series has been an example of social inclusion through the stories of its characters. One of the last residents to land in the neighborhood was Julia, who was introduced in 2017 as a girl with autism.
Her character was already popular in digital format when ‘ Sesame Workshop’ launched its national initiative ‘ Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children’, in 2015 , which offers resources for families on how to talk about autism and how to support the autistic community.
In 2002, the version of ‘Sesame Street’ in South Africa, ‘Takalani Sesame’ , presented Kami , the first puppet with AIDS in the world. Little Kami, a 5-year-old yellow muppet, is an endearing character whose story provides basic knowledge about HIV, and tries to destigmatize the disease by teaching children how to cope with the loss. This character came at a time when South Africa had one in seven children affected by the virus of the syndrome, or with a relative affected by this disease.
Benjamin Diaz started working for Debate Report in 2017. Ben grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife a year later. Benhas been a proud Torontonian for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for CTV News and the Huffington Post Canada.