The social ills have often not brought to public attention until a tragedy made the news headline. Recent case of the death of a lady in a McDonald’s restaurant is a point of case. The tragic case has sent shock waves throughout the territory. The dreadful plight of the homeless finally comes under light, which is worthy of attention to tackle with.
The McRefugee, are those who sleep or live inside the McDonald as their shelter. Since McDonald will not ask those homeless to leave or prohibit them to sleep in McDonald for whole night. Mostly, if not all, refugee will deem McDonald as a place, cosy, spacious and safe that can protect them from danger, freeze or even fulfill their hunger by eating the leftovers by the customers.
The McRefugee are coming from diversified backgrounds, many of which are having a job, but is not well-paid, even they can afford to rent a flat, they don’t do so since the rent has already occupied a hefty sum of money from their salary. Their demand is simple, just find a place to satisfy their physical need, sleep to regain the energy. Some of them are the jobless, without any economic support, let alone earn a living. A minority of them is runaways or lives too far from their workplace that they have to take long time to travel back and forth and McDonald becomes the place for them to rest.
The mounting number of McRefugee has made the right time in McDonald becomes special and crowded. Moreover, there are two main reasons which are contributed to the mounting number of McRefugee.
The underlying cause of the issue is the skyrocketing property rents that Hongkongers can hardly afford, not to mention the impoverished. Since the property market is mainly monopolized by the tycoons. They capitalize on the scarce land resources to build skyscrapers, high standard apartments so as to cater to the wealthy, or mainlanders, for making great profit. Not only the high rent apartment, but also a cubicle of an old building, requires thousands a month. Once they cannot afford the high, unreasonable rent, they have nowhere to live, but McDonald.
Another contributing factor is the low salary of the job. Most of the McRefugee are having low paid jobs. They lack of skills and knowledge to offer a promising job. They can only engage in the jobs that don’t require any specific skills, such as street clearer, waiter, dish washer or they cannot even find a job to maintain their living. However, they are not entitled to get the CSSA because they are single or the salary is above the official standard. Even if their salary is barely enough to rent a flat, they would not do that because probably the salary will be all for the rent. Their job is usually unstable, once they lose their job, it will be difficult for them to seek another job. Under this circumstance McDonald offers them a place to sleep, or even help to tackle their living problem.
Although McDonald seems like a well-considered place for those refugees to sleep, it is still a place without safeguard and protection, accidents, like the old lady died may happen again. To stop the situation from deteriorating, the government should intensify their efforts to resolve the problem.
In the short term, the government should first establish a centre for those refugees which they are given protection and food. Since long term accommodation can hardly be provided. Some services, like job training, or housing allowance should be offered to those jobless or impoverished. The government can employ some social workers to follow their cases, and give support to them once they need. Giving housing allowance can alleviate their living burden and allow them to have a more favourable financial condition to rent a flat or arrange those severe plight refugees to co-rent in the same unit.
In the long term, the government should deploy the land resources wisely. Building public housing estates requires long years but this policy to be introduced should put high on the agenda. Since high rent is the principal problem, only by lower-rent estates, can the McRefugee afford and have a decent place to live, safe and private.
The government should never hesitate to employ more resources to take on this challenge. Otherwise, another tragic case will only give another wake-up call to the government that more needs to be done.