Number of Hong Kong’s ‘McRefugees’ increases by 50% since 2015

The number of Hong Kong’s homeless spending their nights in McDonald’s has increased by almost 50% in three years.

A study carried out by the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO), found that 384 homeless people are sleeping inside the 24-hour branches of the fast food chain compared to 256 people in 2015, and 57 people in 2013.

SoCO carried out the study by doing a headcount of people sleeping in McDonald’s restaurants in four districts — Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Kwai Tsing and Tsuen Wan — from December to January.

According to the survey, SoCO staff visited 73 — about 64.6 percent — of 113 McDonald’s restaurants across the city.

Of the 384 homeless people found in those 73 branches, the largest number of “McRefugees” — 225 people — were found in Kowloon West, while Hong Kong Island had the second largest number at 91.

In a follow-up survey examining the reasons they choose to stay in a McDonald’s, 66.7 percent cited high rents, while 44.7 percent said it was because they were unemployed. For others, it was because it’s closer to work; they were forced to move out; or because they had left prison, hospital, or a rehabilitation center and had nowhere elsewhere to go. Some, particularly women, felt they were safer inside the restaurant than on the streets.

Another survey found that although a majority of those surveyed — 28.4 percent — has spent three months or less sleeping in a McDonald’s, there were some who have slept rough in the fast food chain for between one to two years (9.5 percent) and in some cases more than 10 years (2.6 percent).

The issue of McRefugees has been highlighted by media outlets for years, with some homeless people citing high rents for poor quality living conditions as a reason as to why they choose to sleep in McDonald’s restaurants.

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