81-year-old Michigan dad, 55-year-old daughter tried to get furnace fixed week before they were found dead

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NILES, Mich. — An 81-year-old father and his 55-year-old daughter were found dead in their bitterly cold home earlier this month and now police are learning the couple had sought help to get their furnace fixed the week before their bodies were discovered.

The South Bend Tribune reports a concerned neighbor called police and asked for a welfare check on the pair.

Albert Bivins, 81, and his daughter, Patricia Bivins, 55, were found inside their Niles, Mich., home, where the temperature was well below 32 degrees after a difficult two-week stretch of single digit and sub-zero temperatures.

 Niles, Mich., is about 11 miles north of South Bend, Ind. According to South Bend Tribune, the Bivinses visited the Ferry Street Resource Center a week before they were found dead. They wanted help getting their furnace fixed.

The nonprofit doesn’t provide money for furnace repairs, said Greg Nasstrom, director of Ferry Street Resource Center in Niles to SBT.

Nasstrom says staff referred them to a program through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that can provide money to qualified applicants for needs such as furnace repair, but assistance through the program can take time.

Click here to read more about the process.

“There is no quick fix that I’m aware of for anyone who needs a furnace,” said Sandra Klank, weatherization and housing manager with the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency in Benton Harbor to SBT. “It’s hard for the people, it really is.”

Although their furnace was apparently not working, their gas and electric services were working at the time inside the home.

Their causes of death could not be determined by an autopsy on Jan. 5, so police were still waiting for lab test results.

 Nasstrom  said to his knowledge the Bivinses didn’t ask about using a homeless shelter.

“If we had a homeless shelter here we could have at least given them somewhere to stay,” said Nasstrom to the SBT.