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You've probably seen them collecting money on street corners, claiming that money benefits the homeless. We wanted to know who these people are and where that money is really going. News 13 investigative reporter Mike Mason discovered it's a church group based in Kentucky which apparently recruits the homeless and members go from town to town collecting money in buckets.
You may have seen them at intersections holding buckets, asking for donations to help the homeless but that money doesn't seem to help anybody in North Carolina. They are actually members of the New Life Church Inc., a non-profit group, based in Louisville Kentucky. They've come under fire in a number of states, accused of keeping that money for themselves.
Former church member, Renita Arnold, says New Life is pocketing buckets of money. She claims, "They ain't helping nobody. They ain't helping people for real. They're putting that money in their pocket."
Arnold says several years ago she was homeless in Louisville when she joined the church and she says that's how New Life gets most of its members. Officials say New Life is part of a bigger church called "Deeper Life" which is based in Tampa, Florida. We found members of the New Life Church in Louisville are the ones hitting the streets of Western North Carolina.
Arnold says members fan out across the country soliciting donations and they can make hundreds each day. She says, "Some people are coming out with $500 in one bucket and everybody got a bucket, now you add that up."
We recently caught up with several New Life Church members at the intersection along Highway 25 and Airport Road, they refused to speak with us or tell us where the money was going. So we did some digging and found the group pulled permits to solicit donations in Fletcher but police kicked them out last January for blocking traffic.
Since 2009 the church's Pastor, Cary Fulks, was also granted permits to collect money in Asheville. Fulks claims his church helps folks who are down and out saying, "The homeless the needy, those that are displaced."
So we contacted the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, which manages funding for the homeless shelters in our area. Director Heather Dillashaw says she’s never seen New Life donate money to shelters around here. She says, "We would certainly be aware if they were using that particular kind of funding, they do all kinds of things to fundraise and work very hard every day for the folks who are homeless here."
Dillashaw says New Life has never even contacted her. So the next time you roll down your window to help the homeless, just know it may actually end up helping someone else 350 miles away. Dillashaw warns, "If folks would like to help the homeless in Asheville and Buncombe County they should go talk to the folks who are doing the work here and there are many of those folks who are doing really good work. It's not on the street corner."
We tried contacting New Life Church in Louisville so we could get their side of the story but so far no one has returned our calls.
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