Sesame Street continued its mission to address the issues affecting kids—all kids—this week, when the long-running children’s program announced that it was adding a character experiencing homelessness to its roster of colorful stars. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Sesame Workshop has now included homelessness in the issues being dealt with by Lily, a Muppet character who was previously introduced as a way to help kids understand food-scarcity, and who’s appeared in several videos for the company’s Sesame Street In Communities Initiative (although she’s yet to appear on the show itself).
Although the statistics are a little fuzzy, experts estimate that roughly 1 in 20 kids under the age of 6 experienced homelessness in recent years, a disruptive phenomenon that can also carry with it damaging stigmas and associated shames. Sesame Workshop’s new videos show Lily opening up about the insecurities and pain of dealing with homelessness, while also allowing other characters to demonstrate empathy toward her, hopefully modeling ways for kids to deal with the topic in a healthy way. Per Sherrie Westin, president of global impact and philanthropy for Sesame Workshop: “With any of our initiatives, our hope is that we’re not only reaching the children who can identify with that Muppet but that we’re also helping others to have greater empathy and understanding of the issue.”
This isn’t the first time the series (and its associated initiatives) have introduced a new character to help its viewers understand a complex topic; in 2015, Sesame Workshop introduced Julia, a little girl who has autism, while in 2002, the show’s South African version created Kami, a boy living with HIV.