Job training class for homeless teaches skills, reinstates hope

Give Maximo Paulino a piece of raw chicken, and he’ll turn it into a gourmet meal.

Featuring red peppers, oregano, and garlic, with just a touch of his secret Spanish sauce — his chicken ranks among the best, he said with pride.

When he completes a three-year sentence for drug possession, Paulino hopes to bring his cooking skills to a well-stocked, professional kitchen.

“If I make you chicken, I promise you will like it,” the 64-year-old said in Spanish.

Paulino was among more than 130 people who graduated Tuesday from a job training program at the Pine Street Inn, a Boston homeless shelter. Participants, many of whom had struggled with substance abuse and been homeless, learned a host of basic job skills, from building maintenance to housekeeping to cooking chicken at the proper temperature.

“They learn things as simple as how to mop the floor,” said Emilio Baez, an administrator with the program for 13 years. “They learn that they need two buckets, one for dirty water and one for clean. And they learn that if they mop the floors with wax instead of water, it won’t leave any streaks.”

Baez has a firsthand look at how students change as they move through the 8- to 24-week program. At first nervous and often angry at their circumstances, they quickly begin to change once they realize what they are capable of, Baez said.

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