Community & Education HKFP Lens

HKFP Lens: Hong Kong’s homeless find shelter in McDonald’s, by Suraj Katra

If you go to one of the 116 McDonald’s stores that operate 24/7 across Hong Kong after midnight, chances are you will see people occupying sections of the air-conditioned restaurant and sleeping uncomfortably on the table or bench.

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

“As I entered some of the McDonalds at various odd hours of the night to capture these images, many a times I was struck by the unmistakable body odor and smelly feet of 30-40 people, who had taken over an entire section of McDonalds to sleep,” the Hong Kong-based photographer wrote on his website.

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

Katra wrote: “It was appalling and depressing to witness people drinking alcohol, smoking and washing up in the McDonalds toilet in some outlets that were located in the decaying parts of the city.”

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

Although Hong Kong is home to more millionaires than most places in the world, the city is also known for its serious income disparity. The latest official figure shows a poverty rate of 14.5 percent, close to a million in a city with a population of seven million people.

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

When Katra asked some of his subjects why they chose to sleep in McDonald’s, the most common reply was that “they simply couldn’t afford to live a permanent accommodation and most had to do with temporary arrangements.”

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

Though sensing the helplessness from the tone of the “McRefugees”, Katra said it brought a smile to him when some of them complained about the limited food menu offered in the fast-food giant.

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

Some asked not to be photographed out of fear that their friends and relatives might find out about their situation.

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

mcrefugees hong kong mcd homeless

Although the government said that the poverty rate has dropped to a five-year low in 2013, income inequality and lack of affordable housing remains a severe issue in Hong Kong. Katra lamented that the McRefugees “are here to stay and homelessness is a reality in this city of millionaires”.

HKFP Lens: Hong Kong's homeless find shelter in McDonald’s, by Suraj Katra