Shaquita Ogletree
The PBS children’s show, Sesame Street is now addressing homelessness. Muppet Lily storyline includes the 7-year-old facing homelessness, and on Thursday, December 13 the Sesame Street in Communities held a forum to discuss its newest initiative, family homelessness.

The forum consisted of panel experts LaShawn Haye, Project Hope Alliance, Kate Barrand, Horizons for Homeless Children, Karen Hudson, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Barbara Duffield, SchoolHouse Connection, Jasmine Hayes, the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, and moderated by Rocio Galarza from Sesame Community.

The event emphasized many points from love to resilience to connectivity to drive home the point that no one wants to be homeless. Parents and children are impacted by many factors when they are faced with homelessness from stress to isolation to trauma. According to Jasmine Hayes, people often think of homeless being visible -like in people sleeping on the street – but the invisible people of homelessness are children who are experiencing homelessness compounded with many forms of trauma from poverty to domestic violence. These families often live in high areas of crime where prostitution and drug trafficking usually take place. The Project Hope Alliance partners with families to provide basic needs and resources, as well as approaching each family with dignity.

Ms. Barrand discussed how the face of homelessness is a child aged 6. She went on to say that the resources available for homeless families typically focuses on adults and does not focus on children’s developmental, however in Massachusetts all the shelters have beautiful rooms for children to play and learn.

Many children are challenged by many health problems including gaps in access to health care. Dr. Hudson said that health outcomes affect children facing housing instability and homelessness. Parents resort to the use of emergency rooms as primary care. The Homeless Health Initiative in Philadelphia provides free health care in shelters and serves as a great prevention focus for pediatricians.