HOUSTON (AP) – Televangelist Joel Osteen says his Houston megachurch has “never” closed its doors to people seeking shelter as Harvey swamps the city.
Osteen has faced criticism for not opening his massive Lakewood Church as a storm shelter. In a statement to ABC News , Osteen says the church “will continue to be a distribution center for those in need” and is “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.”
“It’s not our unwillingness, it’s just practicality. It’s been a safety issue for us,” Lakewood Church spokesman Don Iloff told a Houston area newspaper, adding that Harvey’s heavy rainfall almost spilled over Lakewood’s floodgate this past weekend. “Lakewood Church has a heart for this city.”
The church will be open Tuesday at noon to collect baby food, baby formula, baby diapers, and adult diapers on behalf of the city. Lakewood was in communication with the city today and said it would shelter Harvey victims once other shelters are full, Iloff said.
The 16,000-seat former arena served as the home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets from 1975 to 2003.
Osteen’s comment stands in contrast to a church Facebook post and a since-deleted Instagram remark by Lakewood associate pastor John Gray, who said flooded highways had made the church inaccessible. A spokeswoman for Osteen didn’t immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
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