Just before the new year, 81-year-old Albert Bivins and his 55-year-old daughter, Patricia Bivins, reached out to a local aid agency in Niles, Michigan, looking for someone to fix the furnace in their home.
According to the director of the Ferry Street Resource Center, Greg Nasstrom, the father-daughter duo came in to report that their furnace wasn’t working, the South Bend Tribune reports.
However, because the center doesn’t offer any financial help, Albert and Patricia were told to look elsewhere. Nasstrom said they often suggest that people contact the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which does offer financial help to those who qualify.
Unfortunately, as Nasstrom told the South Bend Tribune, going through the state can sometimes take a substantial amount of time.
The week Albert and Patricia reached out for help, temperatures in Niles fell to a negative 15 degrees. When police officers were asked to do a welfare check on January 3, the authorities found both Albert and Patricia deceased in their living room.
The thermostat in their house read below 32 degrees.
For now, Albert and Patricia’s deaths are being ruled accidental. However, because autopsies alone can’t determine the cause or time of their passings, police are still waiting on the results of different lab tests.
Sandra Klank, weatherization and housing manager with the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency in Benton Harbor, told the South Bend Tribune that the process for applying for emergency furnace repairs is “hard for the people, it really is.”
She added that there is no “quick fix” for those trying to get a furnace repaired.
As WNDU reports, according to Nasstrom, while it’s uncommon for two people to be found dead in their living room, it’s not unusual for people to struggle to pay for the repairs or the bills that allow them to keep their homes warm:
“To have people die in their living room is uncommon, but to have people to struggle to get their utility bills paid happens every day here. For people to struggle to get their homes repaired and to keep a standard of living is very common, it’s just normally not, it normally does not go to that extreme where somebody could actually pass away in their home.”
“We were devastated here because we did what we could at that moment, and it wasn’t enough.”
A GoFundMe has been set up by Patricia’s brother to help pay for the cost of his sister’s and father’s funerals.
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