The Unbankables

If you lend small amounts of money to the working poor—people with no assets, no credit, no savings—can their American dreams come true?
Harold Washington, the owner and sole employee of King Harold Computer World, at his apartment in Carrollton.
Photograph by O. Lovett

On Sunday, August 28, 2005, Harold Washington was living in New Orleans, supporting himself as a substance abuse counselor and repairing his friends’ computers in his spare time. On Monday, Hurricane Katrina changed all that. The next day, Washington set out from the Ninth Ward, wading through waist-deep water to a house where his wife, their two-year-old son, and her father were staying. They made their way in boats to a bridge, where they were evacuated by Black Hawk helicopter and eventually put on a

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