The gingerbread homes on display at Crossgates Mall weren't big enough to live in, but they did raise awareness about a growing homelessness problem in the Capital Region.
The structures were on display Nov. 12 as part of the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society's fifth fundraiser. As in past years, the event was timed to coincide with national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
"Over the years, they have become much more than homes," said Liz Hitt, executive director of HATAS.
This was especially obvious this year, with the entry from Siena College Admissions Department including a flock of "Angry Birds." Hitt said it was by far the most popular entry this year.
The birds, which were replicas of the characters from the popular game, were designed by Natalie Sena, electronic coordinator for the Admissions Department. She made the birds by covering marshmallows in chocolate.
"It probably took me about three hours to make all the angry birds," she said
"I work with chocolate during Christmas time," Sena said, describing the sweet as the "easiest medium" to work with. Her annual productions with chocolate includes sleighs and reindeer droppings.
The "Angry Birds" were chosen by the department's vice president in enrollment management, who is a big fan of the birds and thought the popular figures would raise the most possible money. Sena said they are happy to partake in the tradition, because it is line with their core beliefs.
There were also more traditional houses on display at Crossgates, including an entry from the United Tenants of Albany, which consisted of three houses next to each other in an idyllic little scene.
"We were so happy that they got involved,” Hitt said. “The houses shows how bright and cheery Albany could be."
Hitt said in order to realize that dream, there needs to be a renewed effort toward keeping families in their houses. She characterized this problem as a growing epidemic in the Capital Region, where the rate of homelessness has tripled since 2000.
The cost of sheltering a person averages $135 a night, said Hitt, who argued that preventable measures are cheaper and more comfortable, especially if there are young people in a house.
"We've got to keep kids out of shelters. It's really hard on kids," she said.
A week after the houses were on display, they were auctioned off at Taste in Albany. Hitt added that while the houses were made of edible items, she wouldn't recommend people who purchased the mostly stale houses eat them.