Participants use cardboard to build their own Box City

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Campanile and a Mardi Gras decorated house, made entirely out of cardboard. Sound crazy?

If yes, then crazy is the word to describe Box City, an event where participants construct a home out of cardboard and duct tape to raise awareness of substandard housing. Former participants, though, call the event just plain fun.

“There were all sorts of things to do and a lot of different people to meet,” said Joe Nelson, the president of SDSU’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, which is hosting the event. “It was a great time; everyone had a lot of fun.”

At last year’s event, participants built their houses, including the mock Campanile constructed by the Habitat officers, the “engineering marvel” of a two-story cardboard house and the Mardi Gras decorated house, said Matt Hein, a former Habitat for Humanity officer who helped organize the event.

After the building, a homeowner of a Habitat for Humanity house spoke and the residents of Box City ate pizza. Later in the evening, the participants played Ultimate Frisbee in the dark by tying glow sticks to the Frisbees, and they played Capture the Flag, with some of the game’s action taking place inside the houses of sleeping residents, Hein – a senior mechanical engineering major, said.

This year, many of the same events will take place. It will begin with the building and decorating of the cardboard houses, and after that is finished, participants will get pizza and will listen to the speaker, Phyllis Cole-dai, who wrote the book “Emptiness of Our Hands” about her experiences as being voluntarily homeless.

Later, participants will play all kinds of games, including a trivia game created by the Human Service Club and any other game that participants can improvise. Drawings for prizes will also be held, and awards, such as the tallest, biggest or flattest house, will be given based on the style of the cardboard houses, Hein said.

Activities will continue until the last person falls asleep, which is usually around 6 a.m., Hein said. In the morning, participants “re-amp up the adrenaline” by busting down the houses, cleaning up and recycling with the help of Rapid Packaging, who also provides the cardboard for the event.

Although a major component of the experience is fun, awareness is also part of the event. When the event started a couple years ago, the main goal was awareness of homelessness, Hein said, but that goal has evolved to include awareness of Habitat’s mission of removing poverty housing.

“Everyone should have access to affordable housing or a simple, decent place to live,” Hein said.

The overall purpose of the event is, “to give back and raise awareness and have fun while doing that,” Hein said. “You don’t have to do a penance in the Habitat philosophy to do good things.”

The event, which is hosted by Habitat for Humanity and sponsored by the Human Service Club, will begin on April 19 at 6 p.m. and continue until April 20 at about 9 a.m. Box City will be held in Frost Arena.

Groups are encouraged to participate. Last year, eight organizations came to the event, and the goal of Habitat is for more to attend, Hein said. Students or groups interested in participating should contact Habitat for Humanity at [email protected] so it has enough cardboard for everyone.