In one of the latest “Sesame Street” videos online, a Muppet named Lily is cheerfully painting a rainbow mural with Elmo – when she suddenly looks downcast.
“I’m not sure I want to paint anymore,” Lily says, dejected. “Doesn’t really feel like a rainbow kind of day.”
After some coaxing, Lily explains: They had gotten to the purple part of the rainbow, and purple is her favorite color. Her old bedroom was purple. But she and her family had to leave that bedroom behind.
“We don’t have our own apartment anymore,” Lily tells Elmo and an adult named Sofia. “And we’ve been staying in all different kinds of places.”
With that, Lily became the first “Sesame Street” Muppet to talk about being homeless – and the face of a new initiative by the show to address homelessness.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational group behind the show, cited statistics from the Office of Head Start indicating a 100 percent increase in children experiencing homelessness in Head Start and Early Head Start over the past decade. Of the more than 2.5 million homeless children across the United States, nearly half are under 6, according to the group.
Those children must deal with unique “physical, emotional and psychological distress” related to their family’s housing situation.
“We know children experiencing homelessness are often caught up in a devastating cycle of trauma – the lack of affordable housing, poverty, domestic violence, or other trauma that caused them to lose their home, the trauma of actually losing their home, and the daily trauma of the uncertainty and insecurity of being homeless,” Sherrie Westin, president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, said in a statement.
The National Head Start Association defines homeless children as those who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” This includes living in someone else’s home or places like a shelter, motel, campground or car.
Knowing these were real-life challenges for thousands of children who watched “Sesame Street,” Westin said they thought about ways to “disrupt” that cycle of trauma.
Enter “the resilient and relatable Lily, a 7-year-old Muppet whose family is staying with friends on Sesame Street after losing their home,” the group announced Wednesday.