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Understanding the realities of material hardship

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How do low income households – specifically those experiencing material hardship — participate in our social service delivery system? This question is central to research by Colleen Heflin, a professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Material hardship is different from poverty, explains Heflin. There are often specific triggers for moving into and out of hardship — such as the loss of a job — that make it difficult for individuals or households to cover essential expenses. A person experiencing material hardship may be unable to pay rent or mortgage, purchase food, or afford doctors appointments. Heflin's research seeks to better understand how the current human service delivery system may contribute to these hardships, and what changes can be made to help put individuals on the path to economic self-sufficiency.