Asia Minute: On the Edge in Hong Kong: Sleeping at McDonald's

Aug 7, 2018

McDonald's at Harcourt Road, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Credit CIteinikea / Wikimedia Commons

There are many ways to measure the impact of high housing prices in a community. In Hawaii and other states there is the annual point in time count of homeless on the streets and in shelters. But there are other measurements — including an unusual one that has developed in Hong Kong.

Hundreds of people in Hong Kong sleep overnight in McDonalds that are open 24 hours.

We know this because there’s a group that has been counting them for the past five years. And in that time, their number has increased six-fold — to 334 in the latest tally released this week.

The Tai Ping Shan branch of the non-profit Junior Chamber International enlists volunteers to do the counting across the 110 McDonalds in Hong Kong that are open 24 hours.

About three-quarters of those 24-hour McDonalds have people who sleep there overnight.

Of those willing to be interviewed, most have homes and incomes, and jobs. But they are cramped for space — and the few who have air conditioning can’t afford to use it.

Housing costs for even the tiniest spaces in Hong Kong have shot up. The South China Morning Post reports the waiting time for affordable rental housing is more than five years.  

Credit Fenwoonmoa / Wikimedia Commons

A non-governmental agency called the Society for Community Organization says Hong Kong’s homeless number about 1,800 – in a city with a population about seven times that of Hawaii.

While those figures are dwarfed by the more than 7,000 homeless in Hawaii, the agency says the homeless population in Hong Kong has grown by nearly a third over the past five years.