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People recall man looked out of place at Fresno shelter

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POSTED July 31, 2014 8:29 p.m.

FRESNO — Advocates for the homeless say a clean-cut man who showed up at a Fresno shelter last week looked out of place.

Now they know why — it was 41-year-old millionaire Neel Kashkari, a Republican candidate for governor.

A former banker, Kashkari rode a bus from Los Angeles to Fresno with $40 in his pocket and a plan to spend a week looking for a job washing dishes or packing boxes.

He said Thursday his goal was to refute Gov. Jerry Brown’s claim that California is making an economic comeback.

Gabriela McNiel, a spokeswoman for Poverello House, said she and her colleagues at the shelter recalled seeing a new face. The man was clean and asked for a job, she said.

“We don’t normally get asked that,” McNiel said. “We’re thinking it had to have been him.”

The Poverello House serves 1,500 meals a day and offers housing, showers and laundry among its services.

Kashkari said he showered at least once and ate about four meals at Poverello House. On Wednesday, he called the shelter to reveal that he had come through its doors and was about to make his experience public. He donated $500 to the shelter, McNiel said.

Dozens of people at the shelter who were shown Kashkari’s photo on Thursday said they did not recall seeing him. Others at a downtown library branch and a park where homeless people gather also didn’t recognize him.

Kashkari said he tried to brush it off when a few people in Fresno said he looked familiar, and he recalled that one security guard who asked him to move from a sleeping spot actually knew his name and had seen him on television.

Kashkari told the guard what he was doing and the man agreed not to say anything.

Demont Valdez, 50, a Poverello House resident of four months, recalled a brief interaction with Kashkari. He said the candidate was a little scruffy and wasn’t wearing a hat, exposing his bald head.

“I just walked past and said hi and kept walking,” Valdez said. “That’s about it.

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