The District Attorney's office is investigating how a San Diego pastor has been running local shelters for immigrant and homeless families after an NBC7 Investigates story.
According to former residents of House of Hope, an outreach ministry of the Faith Family Christian Center run by Pastor David Barrett, DA investigators have been interviewing them about how the pastor was accessing their CalFresh food benefits in exchange for rent.
Last month, NBC7 Investigates learned recipients of those taxpayer-funded food benefits said they didn’t receive food for the exchange, but rather traded their food stamps for shelter provided by Barrett. In September, Barrett was featured in an NBC 7 Investigates piece about how Immigration and Customs Enforcement released three immigrant families to his Santee shelter, which was kept in crowded and deplorable conditions with no running water or food.
In response to questions about that story, Barrett said care at the sober living home began to deteriorate when some in the home started drinking and using drugs again.
Last week, sheriff's deputies say an unknown arson suspect torched the entire interior of the former shelter. The home is located in Santee on the northeast corner of Prospect and Cottonwood avenues.
The owners of the property, who leased it out to the pastor, said every inch of the inside of their home was burned in the Thursday fire.
The former residents say they were interviewed by DA investigators right after the NBC7 Investigates story aired but before the arson. Three of the people interviewed said the investigators were asking about the welfare benefit transactions.
As part of an agency policy, the DA said it does not confirm the existence of possible or current investigations.
Barrett did not return phone calls to NBC7 Investigates Monday, but in the past he said he is a man of God who is helping people because that is what is in his heart.
No injuries were reported from the fire.