We’ve always had what you might call an obsession with statistics,” says Col. Ron Busroe, national secretary of community relations for the Salvation Army. Now the organization is using its rich store of data to support a new tool—the Human Needs Index (HNI)—that aims to provide a detailed picture of where and how poverty affects people in the United States.

Launched in October 2015, the HNI grew out of a five-year collaboration between the Salvation Army and the Lilly Family School of...


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