LOS ANGELES -- Veronica Sance's rent for her one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles' Crenshaw district ate roughly half her paycheck as a receptionist in the entertainment industry.
Then, Sance said, she was wrongfully fired in late 2018 because as a Black woman she was held to different standards from white employees. Sance filed a discrimination complaint and ultimately reached a settlement with the company, which didn't admit wrongdoing, according to a document she shared.
But the 60-year-old said she's had trouble finding a full-time job. And her savings and settlement money are dwindling, while a well-paying, part-time job with the U.S. Census Bureau was put on hold because of the coronavirus.
"I am going to be homeless if I am not gainfully employed," she said. "This is a daily fear that I go to bed with every night."
Black Americans have long been more likely to pay unaffordable rent and mortgages compared with white people, according to census data. With the current downturn, Black households face a greater probability of being unable to pay, raising the risk some may be forced onto the streets or into shelters already disproportionately occupied by Black people.
Although many factors contribute to those outcomes, multiple experts say the disparities are driven by racism, both past and present, that has systematically starved Black households of access to higher-paying jobs and the ability to build wealth through homeownership, the primary way that families are able to pass money along to the next generation.
That has left them more vulnerable to high housing costs and economic downturns, especially one that has so far hammered people who can't work from home.
"Black families really do sit at the crosshairs of a racialized economy," said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director for the Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity at the UCLA Labor Center, noting that a host of policies, many tied to housing, put the country on this path.
Such long-running issues are gaining renewed attention since the death of George Floyd while in police custody sparked a national conversation about race and the unequal treatment of people of color, particularly Black Americans.
Across the United States, Black people faced the greatest housing insecurity before the crisis. Now, along with Latino workers, they face the greatest job losses.