Televangelist Joel Osteen announced Tuesday that he is opening his megachurch to victims of the Hurricane Harvey, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians. Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter,” Osteen tweeted Tuesday.
About 50 people were reportedly admitted to Lakewood Church for shelter Tuesday afternoon, according to the Chronicle.
Despite criticism on social media for not opening his megachurch to Texas residents during the storm, Lakewood Church spokesman Don Iloff said the Washington Post that his 606,000 square foot church was never closed.
But Lakewood Church spokesman Don Iloff told the Washington Post that the building was flooded and the water was close to spilling over the building’s floodgate, so allowing people into the building would not have been safe.
“We were never closed,” Iloff. “This is crazy. People are saying we’ve locked the church. The church has been open from the beginning, but it’s not designated as a shelter.”
He said if people were in the building while it was flooded, it would be “horrific.”
“The problem with that building is it’s prone to horrific flooding … If that building starts to flood, it floods in an instant,” Iloff said. “If we had people on the first floor, you’d be writing a whole different story. I’m telling you, it’ll be horrific.”
The church will now be a collection site for people to donate diapers, baby food, and formula to local shelters.
Osteen said the church is “prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity.”
Displaced residents will be housed on the second floor, Iloff said.
“We would be hesitant to put anybody on the first floor as long as there’s rain coming … We got two more days of rain,” he said.