People all over the U.S. are being advised to stay in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. But for thousands of homeless people, that isn’t an option. One lesbian priest is using her platform to help protect the homeless people of Atlanta, Georgia.
Kim Jackson is the interim vicar at Church of the Common Ground, an Episcopal church that focuses on serving Atlanta’s homeless community. The church doesn’t have its own building. Instead, churchgoers gather in public areas, such as parks. With at least 800 coronaviruses cases in Georgia (via CNN), the state is now considering a shelter-in-place order, leaving homeless people especially vulnerable. Not only are homeless people without shelter, but they’re also more likely to go hungry.
“In order to get food if you’re experiencing homelessness, people have been really at the mercy of churches, mosques, religious communities, and people of good will,” Jackson explained to LGBTQ Nation. “And now that people of good will are quarantined in their homes, food has become very difficult to come by, and the state, in all of her wisdom in seeking to address this pandemic, has failed to address that particular issue.”
The pandemic is also harder on homeless folks in other ways. They’re far less able to access healthcare, and it’s harder for them to maintain hygiene by washing their hands or taking a shower.
“I think this pandemic is exposing some of Georgia’s greatest long-term gaps in our social fabric,” Jackson said. “We don’t have affordable housing so people are living on the street. People cannot access the medical care they need in the ways that they need it. We have not addressed the issue of homelessness broadly speaking, but particularly for the pandemic. States outside of Georgia have put hand-washing stations outside in public parks. Georgia has failed to do that.”
Some other states are even offering temporary housing to homeless people. California, for example, is building trailers and renting hotel rooms for homeless people with symptoms of COVID-19.
Jackson is the first out queer person of color to be ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. In addition to her work with the Church of the Common Ground, she’s also running to be her state’s first openly LGBTQ+ state senator.