The charity, which is the UK’s biggest youth homelessness charity, is targeting a “new generation of young, affluent donors” with the iHobo app, created by advertising agency Publicis.
The “interactive video embedded experiential app” downloads a virtual homeless person on to the iPhone and attempts to demonstrate the complexity of homelessness such as lack of shelter, food and money, emotional distress, isolation, drug use, crime and physical and mental abuse in real-time over the course of three days.
The app uses Apple’s push notification technology, which alerts the user when the iHobo needs help such as food or support.
With iHobo, Depaul is hoping to dispel and challenge perceptions surrounding homelessness by giving the iPhone user responsibility for the welfare of the virtual hobo character for three days.
The iHobo app, Depaul intends to drive the message “do not ignore the iHobo” and encourage users to make a donation to the charity and make a difference to the lives of young homeless people.
Depaul is also launching a Facebook page and guerilla activity around the app launch.
Paul Marriot, CEO of Depaul UK, says: “Homeless young people are often stereotyped and looked down upon. When they sleep rough, they are highly vulnerable and face very real risks. But they are just like any other young person and, with the right support, they can be back on their feet and fulfil their undoubted potential.
“By creating this app we aim to dispel negative stereotypes of young homeless people and raise awareness of the reasons that young people become homeless and the emotions that they feel. We wanted to create an app that would stand out and make people pay attention, and make people think about how they can make a difference.”