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Gingerbread Houses Benefit the Homeless

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It took Cherie Hunt 22 hours and 16 pounds of confectioner’s sugar to make her gingerbread bungalow house. Red licorice bricks and spearmint gum shingles trim the gingerbread house that she modeled after her former Oakland home (which presumably did not have a candy exterior).

Hunt’s creation was a winning entry in the second annual Sacramento Self Help Housing (SSHH) gingerbread house competition on Dec. 1. The event was held to draw attention to the need for stable and affordable housing for those who are homeless or in crisis.

Competitors were asked to build a gingerbread home that reflects their concept of where the homeless make a home.

In the kid’s category, there was a gingerbread display of a homeless camp along the river with tents, a car for a bedroom and a campfire.

Another entry showed small, high-density cottages made out of milk cartons and candy.

In the public category was a gingerbread mobile home complete with a trailer hitch and an accessibility ramp.

The competition was judged by specialists in the culinary, real estate, art and homeless housing fields, including Ettore Ravazzolo, Jim Swanson, Pamela Skinner, Gwenna Howard and Ben Burton.

Burton says that he looks for creativity in the gingerbread homes and “how well they reflect homelessness and have relevance to our city.”

Winners of the competition received gingerbread cookies and gift certificates to the Downtown Plaza, where the event was located.

The winners were as follows:

Kid’s category: Mrs. Theo’s class
Public category: Goff Road Mobile Home Park
Professional category: Cherie Hunt

There were few entries in the contest this year. SSHH organizers said that several withdrew at the last minute because the damp weather was causing the gingerbread homes to sag and the builders “didn’t have flood insurance.”

There was no fee to enter the contest, said SSHH member Kay Knepprath, and the costs were underwritten by Pacific Housing, Mechanics Bank and Nationwide Insurance.

Swanson said that Sacramento Self Help Housing has a 10-year goal of ending chronic homelessness.

“Homeless people have trouble imagining having a home. SSHH helps them believe that it’s possible for them to have a home.”

With a real-time database of rooms for rent, affordable apartments, shared housing (maintained by SSHH) and other options, the organization helps the homeless or those about to lose their housing to find appropriate placement, explained social worker Katie Tenerelli.

Sacramento Self Help Housing can be reached at (916) 341-0593. Donations or sponsorships can be made at the SSHH website.

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