It takes an average of 17 contacts to get a person experiencing homelessness to accept help, according to city health and human services department officials. For 67-year-old Wayne Jacobson, it took waking up in a morgue at Long Beach Memorial hospital.

“I was very happy being homeless,” said the Long Beach native and Army veteran. “I was very happy eating out of dumpsters and going to places and getting free food and whatever would be offered to me.”

Jacobson had been living in the streets for decades and in and out of jail before an alcohol and drug overdose landed him in the emergency room over a decade ago, where doctors were unsuccessful in shocking him back to life.

The incident changed his ways, but it was a Google Earth image of him sleeping in a tent in Signal Hill a few years ago that led an officer to Jacobson. The officer helped connect him to Long Beach’s Multi-Service Center, where Jacobson received help getting copies of his birth certificate, proof of military services and eventually stable housing.

“So now I have a new life,” said the dead man walking, as Jacobson calls himself. “And because God came in and told me I needed to change that night on the Fourth of July of ‘04, and I went along with it, my new journey began and I get to live a wonderful life and I have a wonderful place to live.”

Community members discuss homelessness at the second Around the Table event hosted by the Long Beach Community Foundation. The event was held at the Assistance League of Long Beach on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Jacobson now shares his story to help others who may be in similar situations. On Sunday, he offered his story at the Long Beach Community Foundation’s final Around The Table event series focusing on “activating the community on homelessness,” where about 50 community members from all walks of life gathered in East Long Beach to address the issue.

Some shared ways they tackle homelessness, others wanted to find out how they can best help.

Marcelle Epley, president and CEO of the foundation, said the topic for the nonprofit’s second Around The Table series was in response to residents at least year’s event who said homelessness and housing is the most important issue facing Long Beach.

The next step now is to get the community activated by donating their time or resources, she said.

“The most powerful resource in our community is people,” said Epley.

Those wanting to help can either buy items and deliver them to the Multi-Service Center, located at 1301 W. 12th St. in West Long Beach, or donate their time to organizations or churches. The public can also donate money to LBCF’s Funds For Homelessness here.

Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.