Temperatures were freezing, and 81-year-old Albert Bivins and his 55-year-old daughter Patricia Bivins had a broken furnace.
So the pair visited the Ferry Street Resource Center in Niles, Michigan, to see if someone could fix it for them, according to the South Bend Tribune. The paper reported that temperatures were fluctuating between the high teens and below zero during the period the Bivins visited the non-profit social service agency.
But it wouldn’t be an easy fix, WNDU reported. They had to get three repair estimates and fill out papers for a program within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services before someone from that program could fix it.
That program can help those who meet certain qualifications with funding a furnace repair, according to the Tribune.
Greg Nasstrom, director of the center, told the Tribune that the father-daughter duo “did not come back in here with any paperwork or any bids.”
Police conducted a welfare check at the behest of worried neighbors, and the Bivins were found dead in their home on Jan. 3, a week after meeting with Nasstrom, WSBT reported. The cause of death is still being determined by autopsy.
According to ABC57, police looked inside the house before entering and saw Albert laying on the couch. Police say he didn’t appear to be breathing, so officers broke a window to enter.
The temperature in the house was far below 32 degrees when their bodies were discovered, according to WNDU, and six of the seven days after the Bivins visited the agency had temperatures dip below zero.
That’s why Nasstrom, who said his agency doesn’t give money for furnace repairs, wishes he could have done more to help than refer them to the state agency.
“We did what we could at that moment and it wasn't enough,” he told WSBT. “I have people come in this office every week who I could put in a shelter that night. If we have one, but we don't have one.”
But Nasstrom, whose agency primarily deals with job and housing opportunities, told the Tribune that he didn’t recall the pair mention anything about needing a shelter.
Niles Mayor Nick Shelton said his city also has a program during winter months for those 65 or older — and added to WSBT that “if only we had known, we maybe could've helped.”
Timmothy Bivins told ABC57 his father Albert had dementia and his sister Patricia had special needs. Now Bivins wrote on a GoFundMe page that he is hoping “to give them a wonderful going away Funeral.”