“If you’re in the trenches doing social service and you meet a drug addict who needs sweatpants and a T-shirt before going into detox, you know that religious organizations are really important,” says Steven B. Stritt, a lecturer in the School of Social Work at San Jose State University. Faith-based organizations (FBOs), he says, “fill in the gaps” by offering flexible, immediate aid such as clothing, shelter, and food.

Yet no one seemed to know exactly how much aid FBOs were offering. And...


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