There is an interesting juxtaposition in East Chicago. You have the proximity to Chicago, so you have that large cosmopolitan influence, but at the same time, this city is in Indiana so you have to deal with a more rural, midwestern influence as well. The result is that when you are looking to rent a place it's going to be confusing. Some places go for everything, and you'll need a stellar portfolio. Others just hand over a key. To make it easiest on yourself, put together letters of recommendation or references from your employer and past landlords. Do this for all adults and even pets. Be sure you have proof of income and then you are ready. Of course, if you do all of that then, you could be handed a key without so much as a credit check, but better than being sorry.
There are 4 main neighborhoods with one being a designated historic place with no residents. The other two have divisions with them but these are real estate distinctions and only a concern if you are looking to buy a home.
Indiana Harbor: This is where the money is in East Chicago and it's still a lower middle income neighborhood. Friendly people and an easy walk to stores make this a favorite for college students as well as young families just starting out.
Gutherie: This is where retirees seem to congregate along with graduate students fleeing from the noise and distractions of Chicago. It's quiet here and you can easily walk to the staples of life, food and beer.
City center: This area is low income and you will find a high concentration of single parents living here. There are a lot of small 3-4 unit apartment complexes, as well as corner stores. It's a nice and clean area but people are busy trying to get by on what they're making. When they aren't, you will meet some great new neighbors here, provided you don't mind looking at photos of their kids and pets.
Marktown: This neighborhood is strictly a historic area. You can't move here but you can tour this fascinating area and enjoy looking at what people in 1917 thought life would be like now. This area is undergoing a revitalization but it still is a cool place to hang out on the weekend.
East Chicago lower-income area with more affordable housing, and some people there struggle to get by. But don't believe everything you hear -- East Chicago, while it does have its struggles, is a suburb that affords close living to Chicago and also has a very strong community of people who know each other and care about their hometown. It's no Gary, IN, which is known to be much worse.