For Dezimon and Adriane Alicea, putting down roots in Gary is a statement of their commitment to the struggling city that's trying to regain its bearings.
For Lathreasia Ruffin, it represents a fresh start after her son departed for college.
They were all winners Tuesday in Gary's Dollar Home lottery that awarded homes to eight applicants who agreed to bring the property up to code in six months and live in the house for five years.
"This allows us to increase the number of homeowners in the city," said Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson, before city council assistant Karen Lane drew the winning lottery balls.
The first winner, Octavia McLaurin, had her choice of nine properties. She chose a house in the 3600 block of Adams Street.
Ruffin, who's an X-ray technician at Franciscan Health Hammond, won the fifth pick and chose a two-bedroom brick home in the 3600 block of Polk Street, near Indiana University Northwest. It's the first house she's owned.
Ruffin said she scoped out her home's block carefully before opting to enter the lottery. "I came by at night and I came during the day and checked it out. It seems quiet," she said.
She'll have plenty of work ahead as she eyed the home's gutters and roof she plans to replace. Inside, she said all the appliances, including the bathtub and toilet, have been taken by thieves. Even the fuse box was gone.
For the first time, Gary Community Development Director Arlene Colvin said the city is partnering with First Financial Bank that has set aside money for renovation loans to dollar home owners.
Applicants, who must have a minimum income of $35,250 a year for a single person, must also show they have sufficient funding to renovate the home.
"You don't have to be a contractor or have particular skills, you just have to have desire to put your own sweat into rehabbing your home," said Colvin.
The Aliceas got their first look at their new three-story home, in the 3600 block of Jefferson Street, Tuesday afternoon.
The couple have three children, ages 7, 4, and 3 so Dezimon Alicea said they need the space. He owns his own marketing business, DA Enterprises, and he serves as pastor of the Move Church, 5016 Broadway. His wife works in Chicago for the American Library Association.
"We both grew up in Gary and do a lot of community work," said Dezimon Alicea. "I want to make sure not only my dollars are spent here, but my physical body too because I believe in Gary."
The other winners were Lucille Dotson, Clarence Green, Shireen Mohiuddin, Felix Sherwood and Anissa Smith.