‘Kids In A Box’ experience shows purpose


Students in cardboard shelter
Phillicity Uriarte-Jones
Students settle in after creating their cardboard shelter.

This past weekend I attended the Kids in a Box charity event that took place at Escalon High School. The event consisted of making a shelter out of boxes and staying the night in it, giving students an idea of what it is like to be homeless and to raise money and awareness for the homeless shelters. We were allowed to bring blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, etc., but were discouraged from bringing tents and electronics as that defeats the purpose of the event. The McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter was responsible for this event. This organization shelters mostly women and children and encourages donations of not only money but of diapers, baby food, and other essential things for circumstances like having children but no place to call a home.


It seemed as though it were a giant slumber party at first. We had music, a DJ, snacks, and drinks. There was dancing and singing, competitions and prizes. However, the idea and reasoning behind this event was stated to the students attending, The president of the Escalon Interact Club that coordinated the event wanted everyone to come front and hear the shelter’s representative speak about the seriousness of the event and her gratitude towards all the participation. The DJ then attempted to make the Escalon Cougars chant but we (obviously) dominated them.


As the sun went down, it began to rain and while many forts had roofs, mine did not. Everyone and everything within our cardboard walls was lightly showered on for a while. A sign of how prior preparation was so crucial in a situation such as this. The rain soon stopped and the DJ began playing music again.


The DJ left at around 9:30 and many people settled into their forts and tents to sleep. The ones who didn’t sleep watched movies or played songs on a guitar as others sang along. Some played sports out on the field, and others walked idly around chatting with peers. Until the sprinklers came on. Luckily, my fort was far enough away that we were not doused, but many were not so lucky and their thin cardboard structures were nearly ruined and many tents belonging to students of the other participating high schools were flooded and uninhabitable. I felt for those people. If they couldn’t salvage their forts or drain their plastic accommodations, they wouldn’t sleep much or at all tonight.


As the night progressed, activities resumed but slowly students settled to sleep. By one in the morning, all but a few, not including myself and a few of my friends, were asleep. By this time the temperature had dropped drastically and the cold, damp ground did nothing but worsen the situation. My friend’s shoes and socks were wet and I had flip flops on, offering no protection from the biting cold. The bottom of my pants were soaked and sandy, completely preventing me from warming up my feet. I had on two shirts, a jacket and a snuggie, and I still shook violently throughout the night. Even then we could not sleep because there was no space in the shelters we had made anymore and the metal bleachers made us even colder.


In an act of sheer desperation, we huddled in a corner on a slab of concrete to warm ourselves and hopefully sleep a little. Luckily, I managed to sleep for half an hour in this position but woke up freezing and jumped to my feet, unable to keep still. It was much warmer in the bathroom so I stayed there for a while before we ate breakfast and thankfully started heading home. Many people lacked to see the point in this charity event and were outraged students could receive so many hours of community service for it but I see the point completely. Being homeless had major disadvantages that I was unaware of before and I’m glad I know them now.


I had the luxuries of proper plumbing, food provided for me, friends around me, and warm, clean clothing and yet I was completely miserable all night. Imagining how an actual homeless person must feel frightens and saddens me. I could hardly sleep because of the temperature and lack of a proper bed. I witnessed what it was like to lose your shelter completely. I know I could not have survived that way and yet so many things were available to me that you don’t see homeless people with. I realized all the things I took for granted were so significant. Having a home with warm blankets, heating, the comfort of a bed and my own room means so much and I would think so little of it. I will definitely be attending next year and will encourage others to do so as well.