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In Memphis, rift between Wall Street and Main Street widens

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BILL RADKE: We asked our Wall Street reporter, Jeremy Hobson, to get out of Manhattan and see how Americans are living through this recession. He joins us from Main Street in downtown Memphis, Tenn. Good morning Jeremy

JEREMY HOBSON: Good morning, Bill.

RADKE: How has the recession manifested itself in Memphis?

HOBSON:The unemployment rate here is higher than the national average but where you really see the recession is when you go into some of the residential neighborhoods and you see one in every three houses on some of these streets are boarded up, the yards are overgrown, they’ve been foreclosed on.

I was in one neighborhood in south Memphis and spoke with a woman named Kim Watkins who is living in a house right between two abandoned homes. She says squatters have taken over the neighborhood.

WATKINS: They come in do all kinds of illegal things. This house just got broken in, the door kicked in, because the car was not here. And you’re afraid to tell them ‘leave, leave.’ They shoot up your houses, all kind of things. We’ve got kids here. It’s just like jail in your own home if you ask me.

RADKE: Wow, that’s hard to hear. Who does Kim hold responsible for her situation?

HOBSON: I asked her, who does she blame, and she said that she blames the city for not trying to come up with a way to keep people in their homes. And she also blames the big banks.

The city is going after one of the big banks that’s been responsible for a lot of the mortgages here in Memphis: Wells Fargo. The city is suing Wells Fargo saying that Wells Fargo targeted African Americans in Memphis and got a lot of them into subprime loans that when the rates skyrocketed up, people couldn’t afford them, and foreclosure happened.

RADKE:Marketplace’s Jermey Hobson is in Memphis driving through Tennessee. Jeremy, thank you

HOBSON: Your welcome Bill

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