McD's shelters 'McRefugees'

2007-05-01 18:30

Hong Kong - No longer just a restaurant for people to munch a burger, McDonald's in Hong Kong has recently become a shelter for some down on their luck, a local paper reported this week.

People who cannot afford high rents or who want to save a few dollars on late-night transportation have opted to sleep in some of the fast food restaurants which operate around the clock, said the mass-market Apple Daily on Monday.

A picture taken by the newspaper at 04:00 in a downtown McDonald's in Tsim Sha Tsui, a popular tourist district, showed at least eight men resting on their arms and occupying a table each.

The paper called these people "McRefugees" - a term imported from Japan, where a growing number of working poor have been spending the night at McDonald's.

A man the paper identified only by his surname, Lo, was among about 10 people sleeping recently in one of the McDonald's in Hong Kong.

"I had lost my job for about a month. I have no money to pay my rent, so I come here to sleep," said the man in his 30s.

No customers complaints

"It has air conditioning here. It's better than sleeping in parks."

The man added he would rent a place as soon as he got paid for the job he started a few weeks ago, the paper said.

A woman, whose name was not given, said she was sleeping at McDonald's to save a few dollars on transportation.

"I'm a nightshift waitress. I finish work at 02:00. I sleep here until dawn when the train resumes services," she told the paper, referring to Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway which runs its last train shortly after midnight on weekdays.

McDonald's said customers are welcome to visit the restaurants anytime and that they "haven't received any complaints regarding customers staying in the restaurants for a long time," it said in a written reply to The Associated Press.

The fast food chain has increased the number of its 24-hour restaurants from a few to 55 last year as it realised Hong Kongers are working and dining at late hours.

Home to 'McGamers'

There are now more than 200 McDonald's restaurants in Hong Kong.

The fast food chain has also become a new playground for "McGamers" - people who play portable games such as PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS for hours in McDonald's.

Kevin, A 29-year-old gamer identified only by his first name, said: "I don't have to worry about not being able to find somebody to play with here."