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Porn shop morphs into nonprofit

Building that used to house The Pink Palace now set to help ex-convicts
by: Matthew Ginn,  Workers watch Monday morning, April 16, as the sign comes down outside a former adult video store on 181st Avenue.

After 20 years of 'adult business,' a porn-shop - known by locals as 'The Pink Palace' - is becoming a center dedicated to making better parents out of former jail inmates.

It's the second Center for Family Success location in the Portland-metro area, said Glenna Hayes, director of the non-profit organization. The other site is located in St. Johns in a building purchased by the same developer who bought the Rockwood shop and leased it to the center.

When the Rockwood location opens in late May, it will offer parenting classes, support groups and family-violence prevention designed to help prevent ex-cons from re-offending and ending up back behind bars.

'There are so many barriers to success,' Hayes said. People recently released from jail often have no housing, no jobs. 'No hope,' she said. And their friends are still part of the lifestyle they are trying to break away from.

The Rockwood center, located at 229 S.E. 181st Ave. between Stark Street and Burnside Road, will provide access to services such as child care, life and workplace skills, addiction support groups, health care, counseling, even general equivalency diploma classes.

Programs for children of inmates and ex-cons also will be available to help break the intergenerational cycle of crime and imprisonment, Hayes added.

'We want to improve outcomes for children whose families are in the criminal justice system,' she said.

On Monday, April 16, an inmate work crew from Multnomah County's Inverness Jail took rollers and paintbrushes in hand to transform the building's hot pink exterior.

Crews from SkillPoint Human Services, a firm that employees former inmates, took down the yellow 'Adult Video Only' sign boasting 1,500 titles, booths and viewing rooms.

Law enforcement officials are thrilled with the building's new use.

'Bringing community resources to East County is always a benefit,' said Capt. Tim Gerkman of the Gresham Police Department. Especially as urban renewal efforts to fight crime and poverty begin changing the look and perception of Rockwood, he added.

Neighbors have mixed reaction.

'Right on,' said Charles Harris, driving down Southeast Pine Street to visit his grandmother. 'That's real good for the community.'

Scott Blackman rolled down the window of his Dodge Durango and shouted, 'Thank God!' while driving by on his way home. 'It's about time,' he said, adding that he hopes closing the porn shop cuts down on the area's rampant drug crimes. 'This community needs it.'

Bryan Skibba, who has lived just a few doors down on Pine Street for 11 years, thinks urban renewal efforts should focus on creating family-wage jobs, owner-occupied housing and establishing new businesses in the area.

'I wouldn't say that's the most comfortable thing for the neighborhood,' he said, watching the flurry of activity from his front porch.

Harold Christian lives just a few houses away from the porn shop and called the business a quiet place.

'It just made it look bad for the neighborhood,' he said. And although Christian is glad to see the porn shop closed, he isn't so sure about his new neighbor, which caters to those with criminal records.

'It really won't change the type of people who come into the area,' Christian said. ' … Let's hope it works.'

Porsche Jordan, 22, of Gresham thinks it will.

She's been in jail since December 28 for violating her probation on a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. On Monday, two days before she's set to be released, Jordan slapped benign beige paint over the Pepto-Bismol pink walls as part of the jail work crew.

'I'm hoping to get a job through here,' she said. Plus, porn stores are cesspools of drug-use and a magnet for sexual predators. 'Having places like this will give former felons a better future,' she said, gesturing toward the center. 'I think there needs to be more of them.'

Hayes agrees.

While cleaning up the building last weekend, two former clients of 'The Pink Palace' rolled up. One sported a cowboy hat and boots. The other drove a shiny Lincoln Continental.

Both asked Hayes and Carol Royal, SkillPoint's founder, if the porn shop was still open. But when the women explained the building's new ownership and mission, the men were, 'clearly not interested, nor understanding,' Royal said.

During the clean up, they removed viewing booths and found crack cocaine pipes, needles and used condoms.

On the bright side - emphasis on bright - 'we have five gallons of hot pink paint if anybody wants it,' Hayes said.