Posted: 5:11 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, 2013

9 Investigates: Many question local ministry's methods

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

You may have seen them on street corners or at Panther games, raising money for a ministry called the Miracle House of Hope.

It's a ministry based in Charlotte's Wilmore community that offers Bible study and beds to men and women with drug, alcohol and other problems

"When they let me out of prison I didn't have nowhere to go, my family had died. This place changed my life, man," said a man who identified himself as Keith.

The leader of the ministry is Bruce Little.

He is a man with a long criminal record who said he turned his own life around and now is trying to do the same for others by sending them out onto the streets five days a week with a brochure and a bucket asking for donations.

But many are raising questions about that ministry, its mission, methods, and its money.

"I was worried about my daughter. She had just gotten out of rehab," said Karen Viers.

She was desperate when she ran into a crew from the Miracle House working a local Walmart parking lot.

But when she and her daughter, Katrina, went to check out the program they said talk quickly turned to money.

'Oh she's so pretty! Boy that's going help us make money,'" said Viers. "Even so, Katrina agreed to move in and quickly discovered that everyone is expected to earn their keep by bringing in cash donations daily."

"They call it your quota. During the week your quota is like $75 and you can have the rest of it. On the weekend or at games your quota is $150, and if you do not make your quota you cannot come back," she said. It is the same story other ministry members have told police.

"The officers tell me that they have to collect a certain amount of money to be able to spend the night at the ministry," said Capt. Gregg Collins, who supervises the Freedom Division on Charlotte's west side.  "From what we see on our end it does appear to be all about the money."

So Channel 9 asked Bruce Little about the money, starting with that $75 quota.

"Now, those numbers are not correct.  They bring in what they bring in," Little said.

He called them "goals," not quotas, and said the money goes to pay for everything from gas to rent and food and clothing, but it was clear he didn't want to talk about how much money they bring in.

"We're not here discussing my finances, so if you want to talk about my finances, you're in the wrong meeting," Little said.

Channel 9 did some calculations, figuring that just 20 people, which is even fewer than Bruce Little claims to have in the program working five days a week, each bringing in $75 a day, would bring in about $375,000 a year.

But on a tax form the ministry filed last year they claimed that they brought in only $110,000 in 2011.

"One hundred dollars and what? One hundred and ten thousand dollars? OK, we turned that in. That's what we made, Mark," Little said, adding, "I'm not the CPA, I'm not the accountant, I'm the preacher man."

But the Better Business Bureau also has questions about the Miracle House and its money.  They have gotten more than 2,000 questions about the ministry over the last two years, but no answers.

"At least six opportunities have been provided to them to give this information back to us and each time it has not come through," said Tom Bartholomy, President of the BBB.

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