Saturday, December 24, 2011

NOLA letter to Santa

Dear Santa, help us heal and grow

Seventeen months after Katrina, I wrote a letter to Santa that was published in The Times-Picayune. Looking back through my personal Katrina book, I found that letter and thought I would share the requests made and the results.
cecile tebo.jpgCecile Tebo
Things asked for: Road Home money, fair insurance settlements, affordable housing. Street lights so Santa could find his way and street signs so he could find our homes. New streets so Santa's reindeer were not consumed by large, gaping potholes. Gas lines fixed for heat so Santa's fanny was not burned on his descent down the chimney.
And, of course, good ole peace on Earth.
Six years post-K this is my assessment of how Santa fared with these requests.
I think it is safe to say that the majority of the claims for Road Home have wrapped up. Affordable housing is still scarce. From what I understand, rents are still exorbitantly high -- often due to higher insurance costs after the disaster. However, many of our new housing developments are wrapping up completion, and I would venture to say they will assist with the city's ever-growing housing needs. Federally funded vouchers have finally made their way into town, and many of our disabled residents are being placed into their own apartments.
Streets are lighted, and street signs are much improved. However, navigation without a GPS can still be tricky. I find it funny how one street miraculously turns into another without a single turn.
As for potholes, every now and then you still hear of a car disappearing into the bowels of the earth. Lakeview, Uptown and Broadmoor streets still give your vehicle a bit of a shock as you travel these roads. Gas lines, though, seem to be working well.
Peace on Earth, an ongoing challenge, unfortunately is not one we have mastered.
Given all that, I've written a new letter for 2012.
Dear Santa,
Thank you for the gifts you have brought to us over the years, but a few pressing needs are still on our wish list.
We have a terrible problem with crime and gangs of people who have no concept of quality of life who are terrorizing those who do. Often these people have limited resources to help them in understanding what healthy living is all about. They simply go through the revolving doors of the justice and mental health systems.
My first wish, a rather large one, to say the least, is to bring us a wealth of community-based programs that will take these people as theirs. The programs would offer them mandated counseling, education, job skills training, substance abuse treatment, mental health awareness and treatment -- which will help them understand how awesome it is to be a productive member of society. Families need to learn how to instill basic concepts such as responsibility, morality, honesty and clean living.
Second, I am wishing for adequate in-patient mental health care for residents who suffer from this chronic disease. The numbers of homeless folks continues to rise, and their in-patient mental health needs are in dire need of attention.
My third wish is to bring adequate transportation to our area. Getting from point A to point B can be very time consuming and almost impossible for many commuters. We are seeing the beginnings of bike paths, but we need more to make this an adequate option for commuting.
Fourth on my list is to continue to offer employment opportunities for young leaders across the country to find their way to this city to make it their home. We have had a wonderful surge of youth who discovered New Orleans as they volunteered in rebuilding, many who never left. They are our future.
My fifth wish is to keep our political leaders strong and honest. Help them to stay motivated as they work toward making our city one that rises to the top of the rankings for a clean, healthy, smart, affordable and safe community.
And my final wish is to get the Saints back to the Super Bowl. This proved to be a catalyst for change for this precious city, and one more win would put us forever in the playbooks!
Thanks, Santa, and Happy Holidays.
Cecile Tebo is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked extensively in crisis management. She can be reached at
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