Microsoft's how-old.net isn't the most reliable age detecting software. The company set it up as a demo site and never expected it to go viral (two million shares on Facebook). While thousands of users checked in to see how old an algorithm thinks they are, Toronto's Covenant House used the social tool as a catalyst for a pressing cause. They created a web ad that shows Cale, a 22-year-old homeless man, stamped as a 43-year-old on how-old.net. "The message was simple: living on the streets robs kids of their youth," Josie do Rego, Director of Development and Communications, told Engadget. "We wanted to remind people that the streets are no place for young people."
While the campaign hasn't gained the same traction as the software, it makes a poignant point. There are about 65,000 homeless young people in Canada. And according to HUD's latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report, about 194,302 youth and children were homeless on a single night last year in the US.
Covenant House is the largest privately-funded homeless youth agency. It provides shelter and services including counseling, education, job training and more. In Canada, their efforts are largely funded through donors who account for about 80 percent of their $21.8 million budget. "Social tools allow us to instantaneously reach a broader audience," says do Rego. "[They can] generate more awareness and understanding of the plight of homeless youth, as well as generate donations in support of our programs that help youth move toward independent living,"
[Image credit: Covenant House Toronto]