I’m livin’ it: the story of how McDonald’s became a hostel for the poor people of Hong Kong
It is known worldwide as a place to get a quick, cheap meal – but several branches of McDonald’s in Hong Kong have unwittingly turned into lodges for the city’s homeless population.
24-hour openings and the prospect of warm food have attracted some of the city’s poorest people to spend the night in one of the city’s 235 McDonald’s restaurants, and staff say they are powerless to stop them coming in their droves.
Shocking 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.
According to the latest figures, 19 per cent of Hong Kong’s population live below the poverty line, a sizeable number for a city of over 7 million inhabitants.
Suraj said: “If you were to walk into some of the 24-hour McDonalds 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 McDonalds 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 McDonalds, the most common response was that they simply couldn’t afford to live in permanent accommodation.
“McDonalds is where they go when they have nowhere else to go.”
Suraj said putrid smells often greeted him when he visited branches that were popular with homeless people.
He said: “As I entered some of the McDonalds 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.”