Well, not THE Tardis. But it was as faithful a replication as I could get using cardboard boxes.

I was originally going to ‘Live Tweet’ the event, but Twitter and my phone weren’t getting along so well. So, I facebooked instead.



My family in tow, we set up ‘camp’ and settled in for the afternoon. From the moment I committed to doing this, my son was worried that I’d get lonely. I flew solo this year because I didn’t know how my son would react to having to sleep outside in a box and didn’t want him having a 3AM freak-out forcing us to leave. So, the solution to that problem, was that he wanted his stuffed monkey ‘Big Monkey’ to spend the night with me. Oh, and Big Monkey wanted his own box too. So, he helped me design and build ‘Big Monkey’s Tree Box’.


(He didn’t break his leg, in case you were wondering. He scraped it trying to climb a massive tree.)

Welcome to BoxCarCity 2014!

Yes, it's bigger on the inside!

Yes, it’s bigger on the inside!


Everyone who participated, was judged on their decorating skills. I won the ‘job’ of Mayor of Box Car City! They presented me with the key to the city…which didn’t open a darn thing. 😀 I got a hat, a sash, a medal, and (as my sons called it) a Piston Cup!

Tardis Box Mayor

Power. I wear it well.

There were some bands playing, but we didn’t really hang out by the stage. The boys danced to the music for awhile, and that was fun to watch. They had game area set up, but the boys were more content with running around in the wide open field in front of our ‘homestead’.


Dinner Time:

To help us get the feel for what really happens in a homeless shelter and the like, we were given the exact same things homeless people get when they show up. I’m not going to lie, dinner was kind of nasty. There was a sandwich made with cheap sandwich meat and American cheese (which really isn’t cheese). We got a packet of Melba Toast and oyster crackers. The highlight of the meal was a Rice Krispie bar and an old candy cane. And to wash it down, a nice room temperature bottle of water.

My oldest son, looked at the contents of the bag and said, “Daddy. Where is the healthy food?” More specifically, he wanted to know where the fruit was.

I had to explain that homeless people get what people donate. And, sadly, most people don’t donate super healthy food and fruit because it’s expensive. I watched as he mulled it over in his head. He’s just now coming to grips with the fact that there are people in the world who don’t have homes, food, clean water, clothes or toys.


And Bed Time:

It was hot, humid, and very buggy. (Hey, it’s Florida!) I got my wife to make a run to the store to get some Industrial Strength Off…because I was pretty sure they’d frown on me pulling out a flamethrower. And also a cold soda pop. Finally, things cooled off and I managed to steal (log in) to some free wifi. I wanted to get some writing done, but instead listened to some music before heading off to sleep. The bands were still playing when I finally holed up for the night.


Good Morning:

If that’s what you want to call it…


This event was similar to many events that went on around the country at the same time. The main organization is called “Family Promise” and they help local homeless families get back on their feet. This event helped raise money for computers so the families could use them to stay in contact with friends and family members, but also to search for jobs, apply for said jobs, and navigate the murky waters of our governmental help system to see what if any programs they might be eligible for. Family Promise gives people an address to put on an application that isn’t a PO Box (which won’t work for some applications anyway).

Without an address, you can’t get a driver’s license or government ID, or a job. (You know the kind I’m talking about. Not the day labor type, but a REAL job.) In fact, there are several companies now that won’t accept any applications that aren’t done online. (Starbucks is one.) i

This organization fills so many needs that I couldn’t imagine NOT helping them out. Mostly, because of the kids. Children should NEVER be homeless. EVER. And, I’m doing what I can to lower those numbers. (And those numbers might surprise you.) Here’s a graphic about homeless children that shocked the hell out of me:




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10 Responses

  1. Crystal H

    I have never heard of this before! This sounds like an awesome way to educate people about what life on the street is really like. I couldn’t even imagine. You are definitely teaching your boys a valuable lesson by taking them to something like this. I bet you hurt in the morning though. While I am not jealous of you sleeping in the box on the hard ground, I am jealous of the fact that you can say you slept in the Tardis. Way to make it cool. 🙂

  2. Stacey

    Thanks for sharing this great post! What a wonderful lesson for your kids and an interesting way to make readers/facebook followers more aware. Love the Tardis by the way!

    • diaper_dad

      Yes! The boys love it too. I’m shoring it up to make it sturdier, so they can have it to play in. My son already carries around a stick calling it his ‘sonic screwdriver’. LOL

  3. Larry

    You really did a great thing here. It was surely educational for your children and clearly for you (and your readers – well, at least for me) as well. I don’t think I would have the guts to do something like this. Thanks for showing the way.

    • diaper_dad

      Well, luckily, we had police walking the area to keep things safe. Aside from the onslaught of mosquitoes early in the evening, the hardest part was the ground. And several people brought air mattresses with them. If that still sounds ‘iffy’, you can always sponsor someone next year!

  4. Lindsey S

    Box Car City sounds challenging and awesome!

    You must be doing a darn good job if your son’s asking where the fruit is, but you made a good point. Homeless folks don’t get their choice of food, and what they do get is usually lacking in nutritional value.

    An event like this sounds like a fairly eye opening experience. I think I’ll look into doing it next year. 🙂

    • diaper_dad

      While I’d LOVE to take all the credit, my oldest son has always loved fresh fruit and vegetables. When he was two, he started going out to our garden and ask to pick peppers with me. Then, he would eat it like an apple. He’s almost 5 now, and still loves fruit and veggies. Also, his Pre-K has done a good job of reinforcing healthy food choices as well.

      My youngest, however, loves fruit but hates veggies. If it were up to him, he’d eat cheese and blueberries for every single meal. 😀

      Also, I will be doing this event next year again. I look forward to one more person roughing it with us!

  5. Run DMT

    LOVED the TARDIS, but I loved the lesson more. What an incredible opportunity! I am going to follow them on twitter and FB to learn about more events like this.

    About a year ago, i participate in a feed your famaily for under $3 a day project. It was such an eye-opening experience to learn how hard it is to eat healthy when your poor. Ever since then, I’ve made it a point to donate healthy food and expense ingredients like spices or chicken stock to homeless shelters. I always tell my kids, “Anyone could end up living in a homeless shelter or in their cars. You never how people wind up there because most Americans’ live paycheck to paycheck.”

    • diaper_dad

      Exactly! I’ve been really impressed with my oldest (4.5) at his grasping the fact that some people don’t have what we have. Every time there’s an opportunity to help people (children especially) he is quick to offer up his belongings. I have to hold him back at times. We had a family come to our church needing all sorts of baby and kid items. We were gathering up old baby clothes and baby toys the boys didn’t use anymore, and my son comes into the living room holding his prize possession, “THE HULK”. It’s a giant Hulk that smashes things and plays sounds and he used to carry it EVERYWHERE. He tried to put it in the box, and I stopped him and asked if he REALLY wanted to give his favorite toy away. He looked at me and said, “But, if the kids don’t have any toys, then they will have fun with this one. And then, they’ll have toys.”

      I told him how proud of him I was, and then talked him into giving them something other than his prize possession. I wasn’t sure he’d understand that he wasn’t going to get it back later. The size of that boy’s heart amazes me on a constant basis. And he’s the one who pushes me to give bigger, give gladder, and give more whenever I can.


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