Joel Osteen Says Houston Officials "Didn't Ask" To Keep Lakewood Church Open As Shelter
The pastor says authorities labeled his church a distribution center not a shelter to victims.
Pastor Joel Osteen went on a press spree Wednesday (Aug. 30) in an effort to refute claims of turning away thousands of victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Speaking to CBS This Morning, Osteen changed his story several times to defend his stance in not opening Lakewood Church for victims. After sharing on Facebook that the church was open, video evidence from residents showed the church doors closed. With a plethora of supplies behind him, Osteen says his church was labeled a distribution center, not a shelter to victims.
"Our doors have always been open. We receive people even as soon as the water started receding," Osteen said. "We worked with the city constantly. The city set up a shelter about four miles from here that can house 10,000 people, showers, dormitories, kitchens, security, all that. They didn't need us as a shelter at that point. They wanted us to be a distribution center."
Osteen's church can seat up to 16,000 evacuees but Osteen says the church was flooded, which halted his plans to open immediately. He also repeated that the city never asked him leave his church open.
"This building flooded in 2001, the whole bottom floor. It would have been a safety concern at the start," Osteen added. "The issue is, we work with the city, they said, 'Let us be the shelter.' They said, go to the county, go to the city shelter. So, you know, somebody created a notion that, you know what, we're not open in time, but they're not sitting here seeing that the mayor is saying don't stay on the street – don't get on the streets, that this building is a safety issue. We're here to help people," he said.
Other areas surrounding Houston have welcomed evacuees like the The George R. Brown Convention Center, The Samuell Grand Recreation Center in east Dallas, the Walnut Hill Recreation Center on Midway Road, the Tommie Allen Recreation Center on Bonnie View Road, and the Samuell Grand Center on East Grand Avenue.
Osteen doubled down on his reasoning by slightly placing blame on the city authorities. "If you need a shelter we could have been a shelter from day one if they wanted that," Osteen said. "You just have to be here to see that, No. 1, the city runs the shelters, what they need us to do – they asked us for a distribution center and you see hundreds and thousands of volunteers came out."
He also didn't have a clear answer as to where the money he was raising for victims would essentially go.
"We'd be raising money for the victims here in Houston – I don't know how it all works – we're working with Samaritan's Purse and different ones, but we're gonna be here five years from now helping these people," Osteen said.
Hurricane Harvey made it's second landfall Wednesday morning near Cameron, La. after leaving Texas with 51.88 inches of water. Roughly 2,000 people have been rescued and 30 deaths have been reported.