Joel Osteen Responds to Claim He Closed Megachurch to Flood Victims - NBC Southern California
Harvey Aftermath

Harvey Aftermath

Harvey was a category 4 hurricane then became a flooding event on the Texas Gulf Coast

Joel Osteen Responds to Claim He Closed Megachurch to Flood Victims

"We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity" Osteen said in a statement

    Joel Osteen Responds to Claim He Closed Megachurch to Flood Victims
    Getty Images
    File photo.

    Televangelist Joel Osteen denied allegations that he closed his Houston megachurch's doors to flood victims in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and said the Lakewood building is "prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity."

    "We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need," Osteen said in a statement late Monday to NBC News. "We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives."

    On Tuesday, Lakewood Church tweeted that the have begun receiving people in need of shelter as well as emergency relief supplies.

    "Lakewood is receiving people who need shelter. We are also receiving supplies such as baby food, baby formula and other shelter needs," the church tweeted.

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    Photos posted to the church's Facebook page show the building lobby filled with people accepting supplies, which include clothes, food, pillows and diapers. Others were shown receiving medical care and setting up beds and sleeping bags. A caption stated the church "hit our maximum capacity for volunteers."

    Other photos posted to Facebook show long lines of cars waiting to arrive at the church.

    Osteen has faced criticism for not opening his massive Lakewood Church — a 16,000-seat former arena that served as the home of the NBA's Houston Rockets from 1975 to 2003 — as a storm shelter. On Sunday, Lakewood issued a statement on its Facebook page announcing that the church was "inaccessible due to severe flooding."

    These photos appear to show flooding inside the parking garage of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and standing water surrounding the building.
    Photo credit: Lakewood Church

    The statement raised eyebrows after several people posted photos and videos on social media appearing to show that the area around the building had not been damaged or flooded by the torrential rains.

    Texas native and singer Travis Garland tweeted that he was "deeply disappointed" by Osteen. "That House belongs to God + was built for people in need. you should have been the first to open your doors," he added.

    However, Olsteen shared images with NBC News that appeared to show standing water in the church's basement and parking garage. 

    Osteen also released a statement to his congregation offering prayers and suggesting ways they could volunteer for a relief effort the church was organizing.

    "Over the last couple of days, as the enormity of this storm was being realized, we have been working to organize relief efforts for the Houston area with our friend Franklin Graham and the disaster relief organization that he oversees, Samaritan’s Purse,” the statement on Lakewood Church's website said.

    "In the meantime, know that our prayers for strength and comfort for each of you will continue, as well as our prayers for God’s help as we navigate the upcoming days and months together," he added.