'Sesame Street' Addresses Issue of Homelessness With New Muppet, Lily

Dec 19, 2018
Originally published on December 19, 2018 6:14 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We're going to talk now about a "Sesame Street" character named Lily. She lives temporarily with her teacher.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SESAME STREET IN COMMUNITIES")

JASMINE ROMERO: (As Sofia) How you doing, Lily?

LESLIE CARRARA-RUDOLPH: (As Lily) I'm OK. It's just that, well, everyone else is going home. And, well, I miss our apartment. And now we don't have our own place to live. And sometimes I wonder if we'll ever have our own home again.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Lily is fuchsia with orange and brown hair and the first on "Sesame Street" to experience homelessness. More than 2.5 million children in the U.S. experience homelessness. Half of them are under the age of 6, making Lily relatable.

KELLY: Because she's homeless, something as seemingly simple as painting can make Lily said.

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CARRARA-RUDOLPH: (As Lily) Purple's my favorite color, and it reminds me of my bedroom. And we don't have our own apartment anymore, and we've been staying in all different kinds of places.

KELLY: That concerned Sherrie Westin.

SHERRIE WESTIN: When we think about homelessness, we don't think about children. We don't look at it through the lens of a child.

KELLY: She is president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. That's the nonprofit that creates "Sesame Street."

WESTIN: We know how much of an impact any sort of traumatic experiences has on a young child. It literally affects their brain development when they're exposed to prolonged stressful situations. And you can imagine how stressful not having a regular home, not having that sort of stability could be.

KELLY: So Sesame published a series of online videos and activities centered around Lily. They include ways especially for children, their parents and teachers to talk about homelessness.

CHANG: Jasmine Hayes is deputy director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

JASMINE HAYES: We're talking about young kids. The idea of homelessness could be really scary and overwhelming. It gives something really concrete for teachers and educators to be able to use as they're talking with children, helping them to feel comfortable about reaching out.

KELLY: Hayes says anyone can help a child find stability in an unstable situation. And that's something Lily's teacher makes a point to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SESAME STREET IN COMMUNITIES")

ROMERO: (As Sofia) Home is more than a house or an apartment. Home is really where the love is. That's why you and your parents are staying with me for a while. And we're going to make sure that no matter what, there's always lots of love.

CHANG: Sesame Workshop has posted Lily's videos at sesamestreetincommunities.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE SHINS SONG, "THE FEAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.