Lesbian reverend dedicates service to Atlanta's most vulnerable: The homeless

Amid the pandemic, the Rev. Kim Jackson, vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Common Ground, is focused on protecting her vulnerable congregation.
Image: Rev. Kim Jackson.
Rev. Kim Jackson.Celeste Byers / for NBC News
By Elizabeth Kuhr

The Rev. Kim Jackson, whose services take place in Atlanta's Woodruff Park, serves the spiritual needs of the homeless population. During the pandemic, Jackson, the vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Common Ground, is focused on protecting her vulnerable congregation.

"Fundamentally, we're concerned about their health and making sure they don't get infected with COVID-19," said Jackson, 35. "We're making sure they live through this pandemic."

"My deepest commitment is to not just be a line to work through to get food ... We're a line you walk through and get spoken to, because you're a human being."

Rev. Kim Jackson

Jackson said that when the virus started to spread across the U.S., 70 percent of her congregants had not heard of the coronavirus when she hosted her service in a mask and gloves. She said she continually provides the churchgoers with news updates and safety protocols and distributes masks and hand sanitizer when the church has the resources.

With other church staff members, Jackson serves 120 lunches, up from 60 pre-pandemic, at her usual location in Woodruff Park after her Sunday service. Jackson also helps ensure that her congregants get their stimulus checks from the coronavirus relief package.

"My deepest commitment is to not just be a line to work through to get food," said Jackson, who said she has been called to the ministry since she was 8 years old. "We're a line you walk through and get spoken to, because you're a human being."

Jackson, who identifies as a lesbian, is most concerned about the transgender women of color who are experiencing homelessness.

"They're at such a great risk of violence that even though they are very hungry, they have opted not to stand in line to get food," said Jackson, who said she gives the trans women who do show up extra meals. "I know they're feeding more than just themselves."

Out on the Frontline: Rev. Kim Jackson is one of NBC Out's 2020 Pride Month honorees. To see the full list, click here.

Jackson is running for the state Senate, and she will face a primary opponent on June 9. She said that with Atlanta residents obeying the state's lockdown and staying off the streets, the city's homeless population has become visible. She said she hopes Georgians pay attention and help secure housing for them.

"I've watched people who have basically nothing be extraordinarily generous," Jackson said. "I really would urge all to be more generous and more kind, even when we feel we don't have enough."

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