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Stepson of compulsive gambler opens facility for addiction recovery to prevent crimes

Shun Kanai shows a laptop displaying the homepage of a company he established that runs "Alba," a self-support facility that aims for recovery from addiction, in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Kawasaki, on Nov. 5, 2018. (Mainichi/Akira Iida)

KAWASAKI -- A 25-year-old man whose stepfather was arrested over suspected embezzlement that stemmed from compulsive gambling opened a self-support facility that aims for recovery from addiction this April in this city south of Tokyo.

"Alba" based in Kawasaki's Tama Ward is designated by the municipal government as a facility carrying out welfare services for persons with disabilities. Shun Kanai established a company that currently runs Alba from his painful experience as a family member of a criminal offender. He hopes to reduce addiction and crimes that are caused by such disorders.

Kanai's parents divorced while he was in elementary school. His mother remarried, but the whole family suffered due to the man's inability to stop gambling. The addicted stepfather was often glued to the TV watching live horse racing and constantly argued with Kanai's mother.

Kanai's stepfather was arrested soon after the 25-year-old entered Yokohama National University College of Business Administration and started to live on his own. The gambling addict was suspected of stealing products from a secondhand shop while working as an employee and then selling the goods. Kanai's mother and his two little sisters, who stayed at the home of the mother's parents in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, felt stigmatized due to rumors about their stepfather. Kanai's mother then divorced for a second time as the amount of debt her new partner had hidden from the family totaled several million yen.

For a long time, Kanai kept on questioning, "What causes addiction that can destroy a family?"

The university student dreamed of being an entrepreneur upon enrollment and experienced an internship at a tech venture. However, he lacked fulfillment from his work. When Kanai thought carefully about a job that only he could do, the image of his stepfather, who he never wanted to think about again, came to mind.

Kanai wondered if he "could create a system to assist people with addiction to prevent them from committing crimes." Upon graduating in 2016, he entered a company supporting the employment of former imprisoned convicts. For a year, he witnessed the difficulties former criminal offenders faced in life. At the same time, he became painfully aware of a lack of social resources to assist such people.

The 25-year-old established his own business in April 2017. He worked voluntarily at an addiction recovery facility while learning know-how from experts in the fields of welfare and psychology, before finally opening Alba.

Kaoru Washino, head of the policy planning division at "Ryozenkai" relief and rehabilitation facility in Tokyo, known for its drug withdrawal programs, became an adviser for Kanai's company. The 64-year-old who was a former instructor at a correctional facility stated, "It's reassuring to see younger generations taking an interest in issues like this."

Alba became a welfare service facility approved by the Kawasaki Municipal Government half a year after it applied. At the moment, seven people in their 20s to 70s having trouble with gambling, alcohol, and other addictions pay regular visits to the facility. Kanai has hired four staff members including social welfare workers. Educational and employment support services like addiction recovery programs are provided at Alba.

Half a year after Alba's opening, Kanai sometimes makes visits to correction facilities such as prisons to give lectures. The man is determined to spend his life engaging in activities "to abolish addiction" that pushed his stepfather past his breaking point.

(Japanese original by Akira Iida, City News Department)

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