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Queer Money

Aug 8, 2017

The LGBTQ population in every community deserves local access to medical and legal services – and a safe space to meet up. When Sean Coleman saw that the South Bronx was lacking, he cashed out his 401K and founded the non-profit Destination Tomorrow, an organization that serves LGBTQ youth 13 to 24 years of age, with a focus on the transgender community. When Sean established the agency in 2009, he was the sole employee. (Well, perhaps ‘volunteer’ is a more accurate term since he did without any income whatsoever for the first two years!) Despite a number of struggles – including the loss of his condo – Sean knew that Destination Tomorrow was his purpose, so he persevered. Today Sean serves as the Executive Director of a growing organization, leading a staff of eight salaried employees who served more than 300 individuals in 2016. Today Sean discusses the services offered at Destination Tomorrow, how he approaches financial literacy with a population that distrusts the banking system, and his advice for others who may want to initiate similar programs in their own community. Listen in as Sean explains how you can get involved in making your community a safe space and shares success stories of individuals served through Destination Tomorrow! Topics Covered The programs offered at Destination Tomorrow • Drop-in program (safe space) • Economic empowerment • GED-readiness program • Housing referrals • Medical, mental health referrals The statistics around homelessness and the LGBTQ population • 51% of homeless in South Bronx are LGBTQ • Majority of that 51% are individuals of color • Many have aged out of foster care system How Sean funded Destination Tomorrow in the beginning • Cashed out 401K • Filed for bankruptcy when personal funds ran out • No income whatsoever in first two years How Sean maintained the courage to keep going • Had come too far to give up • Built momentum with each small victory • WHY was important enough to persevere Destination Tomorrow’s Financial Literacy Program • Partnership with TD Bank • Community unfamiliar with conventional banking • Teaches importance of saving, understanding credit • Students learn basic banking (i.e.: reconcile checkbook, budgeting) • Participants can open bank account with $25 Why financial security is the foundation of a strong queer community • Can’t give back, support community when struggling • Make poor decisions when resources lacking How Destination Tomorrow’s Financial Literacy Program counters the community’s distrust of banks • MassMutual’s LGBTQ Financial Security Summary reports that 59% of LGBTQ community doesn’t trust banks • Understanding the process eases fears (e.g.: overdraft fees) • Education around establishing cushion, overdraft protection • Build relationship with TD bank rep, Barton How fear for physical safety is connected to carelessness with money • May spend money don’t have for cab fare • Must work to change environment • Promote understanding that money provides a certain amount of protection Destination Tomorrow’s KIKI World events • Based on cult classic Paris is Burning • Participants compete in stage competitions (known as KIKI Balls) • Youth meet every Thursday to prep (KIKI Lounge) • Affords staff opportunity to build rapport with young people, connect with services when appropriate The end goal for Destination Tomorrow youth • Self-sufficiency • Ready for employment • Understand what independent living looks like • Healthy etc. How Destination Tomorrow is funded today • Private foundation grants • Two city grants, one state grant • Individual giving plan