In the midst of current internal chaos at City Hall, shelter manager says safe operations will continue as usual

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Jake King, shelter manager for the Beech Street shelter in Manchester, around the time he was hired in 2023. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – City Emergency Shelter Manager Jake King takes exception to the picture being painted by some elected officials recently, that operations at the shelter and adjacent engagement center are lacking and in need of oversight.

King’s background includes military experience as a former Army Airborne Ranger and six years as a Londonderry police officer, as well as a past life as manager of homeless resource centers in both Manchester and Concord. 

In the interim King founded Thrive Outdoors, a training/challenge course applicable to everyone from energetic kids and troubled teens to those recovering from addiction, corporate entities and leaders in need of team building. Although COVID made it harder to maintain that business King got through it and landed on the other side, in the right place at the right time to answer the city’s call.

His Elm Street business abuts the former location of the “Firestone encampment,” and King became involved as a bystander. What he learned over the course of that issue as the encampment was eventually dismantled is that the problems the city was dealing with in terms of eliminating homelessness a decade ago, were no better. People were still lost and in need of pathways toward a better life.

So when Fire Chief Ryan Cashin approached him a year ago to step up as manager of the city’s first emergency shelter, King had ideas. Knowing the need for personnel to help do the job right, he established a business that draws on the same principles of his Thrive Outdoors, but that fits the unique needs and challenges of an emergency shelter. 

East Coast Evolution Leadership is the company under contract until June with the city to operate the shelter and engagement center. King trains his staff in best practices and says he couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve been doing for more than a year in that space.

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Thrive Outdoors founder Jake King, left, showing former Mayor Joyce Craig the ropes of a skills course during an open house in January of 2020. Photo/Carol Robidoux

My background is chaos management, which is what got me into this field. I’m not a social worker to provide therapy; I’m there to provide safety and security so others can safely provide these things,” said King. “My staff is phenomenal and deserves so much more credit than they’ve gotten of late.”  

In light of the current shake-up at City Hall, including Mayor Ruais’ decision Friday to place Director of Housing Stability Adrienne Beloin – King’s boss – on administrative leave, King on Tuesday met with the mayor to make sure they are on the same page about what’s best for the 40+ individuals receiving shelter from the city, and the progress that’s been made.

The mayor has said he’s looking for a non-profit entity to take over shelter operations and get the city “out of the shelter business,” and people in the know say that Granite United Way is at the top of Ruais’ list. 

No matter what decisions are made going forward, King says he let the mayor know Tuesday that he and his staff would like to continue on in the same capacity, if possible.

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Shelter manager Jake King, left, with staff from East Coast Evolution Leadership back in March 2023 when the shelter was just getting set up. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“We’re ready and willing and fully capable to do our job. I want to do my best to make everybody on both sides happy, but in the end it’s about the employment of my staff and the dignity of my staff,” King said. 

“I have confidence in the mayor and aldermen, and if they can take one particular alderman’s personal views out of the equation, we can make this work,” King said.

That “one particular alderman” says King is Board of Aldermen chair Joe Levasseur, who King says last week circulated “misinformation” about King on both his TV show and during a radio appearance on WFEA radio.

As King explained to WFEA morning show host Drew Cline on Tuesday morning’s broadcast, Levasseur repeated misinformation about the hours King works and the salary he makes. King feels Levassuer’s words, and the animus he stirs among his political supporters, could put the safety of King and his family at risk. 

“He said I only work 20 hours a week and that I make $100,000,” King said. “That’s complete misinformation,” clarifying that his contract requires him to work a minimum of 20 hours a week at the shelter.  “I was a cop. I know what people are capable of, and I can tell you that kind of misinformation is dangerous to me and my family. There’s no telling what someone might do.”

For the record, King said his work ethic is strong and anyone can fact check his hours, or salary.

“In reality it’s more like 20-40 on site and another 20 or more off-site,” King says. He is on call 24/7, and when he’s not on site he has a structure of management fully trained for the other shifts. A 70-hour workweek is more like it, if anyone is interested in doing the math.  After paying his staff and other expenses, he makes $24,000.

“There were a lot of false statements being made during last week’s aldermen’s meeting,” King said. “What’s important in all of this is that we’re providing essential services to our shelter guests and that’s been forgotten about,” King said.

 “It’s become a battle about other things that I don’t want to get in the middle of. But if you ask police they barely have to come to our shelter because there really are no issues. That’s the phenomenal job my staff does to keep things running smoothly,” King said. “So when you hear a few aldermen saying they need to see change, that’s part of some other agenda I can’t really explain.”


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About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!