For the first time in its nearly 50-year history, Sesame Street will have a homeless Muppet character. Lily, a character first introduced as a hungry, impoverished little girl in 2011, is now involved in a storyline involving her family becoming homeless and having to stay with friends, CNN reports. For now, she appears in online clips rather than televised episodes of the show. The show launched the storyline as homelessness is increasing across the US; one report released last year estimates that about one in 20 children under the age of 6 experienced homelessness in 2014-15.
"When Lily was first launched, she came out as part of the food insecurity initiative. So she's not brand-new, but this seemed like a really perfect extension of her story, so that we could use her to help children identify with," says a Sesame Workshop exec, who adds that another goal is to educate teachers, caregivers, and other children about issues affecting kids, helping them to empathize and to end the stigma around certain issues. "Now we don't have our own place to live, and sometimes I wonder if we'll ever have our own home," Lily says in one clip to Elmo, who reassures her that her friends will always be there for her, per USA Today. A press release about Lily links to resources parents and others can use with their kids. (Last year, Sesame Street introduced the first Muppet with autism.)