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Formerly Unhoused Pastor Leads Charge To Convert Parsonage Into Facility for At-Risk Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Tim Jackson
Screengrab via WATE

Pastor Tim Jackson of Magnolia Avenue United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, is celebrating the opening of Hope House, a new ministry that has converted the church’s parsonage into a facility that will house and support 10 women ages 18 to 24 who are transitioning out of foster care. 

This project is particularly close to Jackson’s heart, as he was unhoused at various points throughout his childhood and teen years. 

“I failed the first grade because I was homeless,” Jackson told WVLT. “I failed the fourth grade because I was homeless.”

It wasn’t until Jackson joined the military at age 18 that he found the structure and support he needed to escape poverty. Now, he wants to provide care and resources to help young women in Knoxville do the same. 

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“It is our hope to bring those kids love, compassion, and mercy and grace—to surround them, to protect them, to provide for them and to guide them,” Jackson said. “We want to give them a strong structure and organization. We want to help them get their GED, their high school diploma.”

Jackson laments the fact that about half of those who leave foster care at 18 years old experience homelessness within two years. He told WATE, “There is a reason we have some many homeless here in Knoxville…because a lot of people aren’t doing anything about it.”

Jackson isn’t one of those people. That is why he has been working with other churches and community organizations, including the Knoxville Community Action Committee and Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation, to launch Hope House. 

“We know our county and city mayors know that homelessness is a huge issue here in Knoxville—almost 3,000 people homeless in the Knoxville community, 700 of those who are currently homeless in Knoxville are kids 18-24,” said Jackson. “We want to do our part as the United Methodist Church through Magnolia to meet that need, to give those young people a home, and hope, and a future.”

Jackson is encouraging churches to think creatively about how to use their campuses to address the crisis of homelessness in Knoxville and other places. 

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“A lot of our churches have entire wings, education buildings—they’re no longer even being used,” Jackson said. “So why not take those spaces and sit down with the fire marshal and the codes guys and gals, who are on our side by the way, and work out ways that we can use those spaces creatively?”