Generations of children have grown up watching Sesame Street where they’ve enjoyed learning life lessons, basics like counting and the alphabet, and how to get along with different personalities. We’re sure all of you have a favorite character!

Mixed in the with wisecracks and fun times, Sesame Street has sometimes addressed real-life problems and social issues. They are introduced in a way that is empathetic, relatable, and understandable to kids. Do you remember Mr. Hooper dying? How about Julia, the little girl who is autistic?

As the show rolls into its 50th year, it is introducing another issue through the character of 7-year-old Lily. She debuted back in 2011 to raise awareness for childhood hunger.

Facing hardship, the little Muppet girl and her family would visit a food pantry to survive. At one point, she even helped organize a food drive.

Now, we meet Lily again and this time, she is homeless. Her family lost their home and are living with friends on Sesame Street until they get back on their feet. They have also spent time in shelters, and Lily is the first Muppet on the show to be dealing with a homeless experience.

In the episode where viewers learn that she is homeless, Lily explains that since they lost their apartment, she wonders if they will ever have their own place to live again. The character is meant to highlight the experience from a child’s perspective, and Sesame Workshop, the organization behind the show, felt there was a need to discuss the issue.

The group points to sad statistics that more than 2.5 million children in the U.S. are homeless with almost half being under age 6. In a press release, Sesame Workshop stated how with the assistance of adults, Lily’s character can help young children understand poverty and homelessness:

“Lily is featured in new videos, storybooks, and interactive activities for families with children ages 2 to 6, in addition to materials for the professionals who serve them, such as teachers, social workers, and healthcare providers. Sesame launched the initiative, part of its Sesame Street in Communities program, to help mitigate the impact of the trauma and stigma that result from homelessness.”

While some may consider the move as Sesame Street “going dark”, the initiative is largely being applauded. The reality is that every day, there are children sitting in classrooms who are homeless, and that is if they even make it to school. Their friends may not know, but Lily’s presence on the show can teach kids to treat one another with love and kindness regardless of their circumstances.

On December 13, Sesame Workshop will be hosting a discussion on homelessness and children that features experts who will provide resources and information. Viewers are encouraged to join in via Facebook Live or YouTube.

You can catch Lily making appearances on Sesame Street’s showings online and on TV. Are you ready to welcome her into your home? Watch this clip below to get a glimpse of her!

Were you already familiar with this character? What do you think about Sesame Street taking this path? Do you know any young children who have faced homelessness?