The rise of the McRefugees: Hundreds of homeless sleep in McDonald’s

The rise of the McRefugees: Hundreds of Hong Kong’s homeless sleep in McDonald’s as the city’s housing crisis worsens

  • Hong Kong has one of the most competitive property markets in the world 
  • Some 334 spend each night in 24hr restaurants for air con and cheap food
  • This is up from 57 in 2013, the survey by Junior Chamber International found

Hundreds of people in Hong Kong are sleeping in McDonald’s overnight.     

As many as 334 spend each night in the 24hr restaurants as the city’s housing crisis worsens, according to a new report.

This is up from 57 in 2013, the survey by Junior Chamber International found. 

Poverty: Homeless people in Hong Kong are turning the city’s McDonald’s restaurants into makeshift shelters

Refuge: The city’s poorest residents have been attracted by the 24-hour openings and warm, cheap food

Many are homeless but some are choosing to stay in McDonald’s instead of their public housing flats.

One man said he couldn’t afford $2 per day for air-conditioning in his public house so chose the cool air and cheap food available in McDonald’s instead.


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Others are sleeping there to avoid domestic abuse. ‘They have places to sleep, but they don’t go back home,’ said Jennifer Hung, chairwoman of the study. 

‘The purpose of this research was originally to provide services for the sleepers,’ she told CNN.

‘But we found that there is no specific picture of the McRefugee situation in Hong Kong. 


Desperate: These images taken by local photographer Suraj Katra show just how many people have been reduced to sleeping in the fast-food restaurant in a city where it is notoriously expensive to buy property

Hundreds of people in Hong Kong (pictured is a homeless woman) are sleeping in McDonald’s overnight 

Sad sight: Photographer Suraj Katra said between 1am to 5am, you are likely to find the restaurants ‘turned into a hibernation den with people lodged on its acrylic furniture’

‘Government officials acknowledged that there are no statistics, so we conducted this research.’  

Hong Kong has one of the most competitive property markets in the world with one square foot costing an average of $1,700, up from $770 20 years ago. 

Local photographer Suraj Katra took pictures of several people sleeping in McDonald’s.

He said: ‘If you were to walk into some of the 24-hour McDonald’s in Kowloon between 1am to 5am, you are likely to find it turned into a hibernation den with people lodged on its acrylic furniture. 

‘It was appalling and depressing to witness people drinking alcohol, smoking and washing up in the McDonald’s toilet in some outlets that were located in the decaying parts of the city.

‘When I approached some of my subjects to ask them why they chose to spend their nights in McDonald’s, the most common response was that they simply couldn’t afford to live in permanent accommodation.

‘McDonald’s is where they go when they have nowhere else to go.’ 

Hong Kong has one of the most competitive property markets in the world with one square foot costing an average of $1,700, up from $770 20 years ago 

Most people approached by the photographer said they couldn’t afford to live in permanent accommodation

Mr Katra said putrid smells often greeted him when he visited branches that were popular with homeless people.

He said: ‘As I entered some of the McDonald’s at various odd hours of the night to capture these images, many times I was struck by the unmistakable body odour and smelly feet of 30-40 people.

‘The staff said they were helpless as every attempt to drive them away is met with failure as they keep coming back.’


Mr Katra said: ‘It was appalling and depressing to witness people drinking alcohol, smoking and washing up in the McDonald’s toilet in some outlets that were located in the decaying parts of the city’

Mr Katra said putrid smells often greeted him when he visited branches popular with homeless people

‘McDonald’s is where they go when they have nowhere else to go’: An elderly man asleep in the restaurant

Several branches of McDonald’s in Hong Kong have unwittingly turned into lodges for the city’s homeless

Staff say they are helpless as every attempt to drive them away is met with failure as they keep coming back

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