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Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen said his church is open to Harvey victims after a social media backlash

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Updated August 29, 2017 11:32 AM EDT

Lakewood Church tweeted Tuesday that it is "receiving people who need shelter."

Pastor Joel Osteen says his Houston megachurch is not closed to those hurt by Tropical Storm Harvey following social media backlash over its response to the national disaster.

“[We’re] prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity,” he said late Monday, according to ABC News.

“We have never closed our doors,” Osteen added of Lakewood Church. “We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need.”

“Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.”

Lakewood also sent photos it said show the extent of flooding inside and outside its building, which can hold more than 16,000 people.

ABC News reported that it remains unclear if the church, which once hosted the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Houston Rockets, was damaged by Harvey.

Osteen’s statement follows his tweet earlier Monday urging people to donate to Lakewood for Harvey relief efforts.

Lakewood has previously engaged in natural disaster relief efforts, and it sheltered victims displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The church’s response to Harvey, however, has inspired sustained criticism on social media for falling short of its past efforts.

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Lakewood said in a Facebook statement posted Sunday that it was “inaccessible due to severe flooding!”

Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center is the largest shelter serving Harvey victims but is already thousands of people past its maximum capacity.

ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported Tuesday that the building had about 8,800 people inside it early that morning, well beyond its normal 5,000 people limit.

Federal officials are predicting that Harvey will force 30,000 people into shelters and 450,000 victims into seeking some form of disaster aid.

Harvey has also played a role in the deaths of four people, and it has caused mass evacuations across Texas since first making landfall there last Friday.

The storm has shown few signs of abating, and it could reportedly drop up to 15 inches of rain in eastern Texas and western Louisiana as Tuesday unfolds.

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