For Gulf Bend case worker Reese Justice, helping someone with their mental health can start with a simple conversation.
Taking a break from helping out at Victoria nonprofit Christ’s Kitchen on Wednesday morning, Reese did just that.
“I wanted to talk to you and see what was happening with you,” Justice said to Stormy Keifer, 52, of Victoria.
Keifer said she suffers from insomnia, bipolar disorder, mania and depression. She said talking with Reese was helpful.
“They listen,” Keifer said about Justice and other Gulf Bend counselors who visit Christ’s Kitchen.
After talking with Keifer, Justice meandered through the parking lot, saying hello, handing out business cards and checking up on many who had come to be fed at the soup kitchen’s drive-thru meal service.
“We’re going to them,” said Justice, who works at the Gulf Bend Center, which provides mental health services to Crossroads residents who may not be able to afford such care.
“If there’s someone lying on the ground with a blanket, I’m going to walk up to them and hand them my card and ask them what’s going on,” Justice said.
Justice, who is also a qualified mental health professional, began visiting Christ’s Kitchen soon after COVID-19 arrived in the Crossroads after he was invited by the soup kitchen’s executive director, Trish Hastings.
Since March, Hastings said she has seen the number of hungry people at Christ’s Kitchen triple.
She also has seen a similar spike in the mental health needs of those hungry people.
“They don’t have a job. They don’t have gas. They don’t have food,” Hastings said. “They’re scared. They’re lonely, and they’re tired.”
Justice and other Gulf Bend counselors have offered their services to the community through a variety of ways.
The center has taken calls through its hotline, paid visits to inmates in jails, offered regular services at hospitals and answered emergency calls for those suffering crises.
At Christ’s Kitchen, Justice said his goal is to provide visibility for the Gulf Bend Center, make connections and start conversations about feeling and thinking better as well as listen to those who need to take a load off their minds.
And Hastings said that work has made a difference.
“Reese is so valuable,” she said. “They see him, and they may not use him today, but they will call. Every card (the case workers) pass out is a seed.”
Wednesday, Justice planted another one of those seeds after introducing himself to Robert Steinkamp, a 34-year-old Albuquerque, N.M., resident and Army veteran who was visiting Victoria.
He said he is without a job, and staying at the Salvation Army in Victoria.
In Iraq, Steinkamp served as a truck driver. The job’s constant threat of roadside bombs left him with numerous mental health issues.
Medically discharged for PTSD, Steinkamp said he now battles insomnia, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues because of that service.
“If I’m driving down a highway, and I see something on the side of the road, it makes me nervous. Going under bridges makes me nervous,” he said.
“I’ll sleep for two days normal and then be up for a week,” he said.
After his conversation with Justice, Steinkamp took the counselor’s card, which was printed with Gulf Bend’s crisis hotline number.
“Having someone to talk to is sometimes all you need,” he said.