Niles father, daughter found dead were looking for help to fix furnace

Niles father, daughter found dead were looking for help to fix furnace // WSBT 22 photo

A Niles pair sought help in the weeks leading up to their deaths inside a Niles home where temperatures were below freezing.

A city leader now says an elderly man and his daughter had sought help to fix their furnace.

A city councilmember, Daniel VandenHeede, told WSBT 22 the family went to a community resource agency a week before the were found dead, they were seeking help to get their furnace fixed.

Now the Bivins family is asking if more could've been done.

“Something needs to be done. I don't want this to happen to someone else,” said Timmothy Bivins, the son and brother of victims.

A call to action, after a father and daughter died in a home.

Behind the neat curtains at the home on the 600 block of Woodruff Street in Niles, police say the bodies of 81-year-old Albert Bivins and his 55-year-old daughter Patricia Bivins were found in a home well-below 32 degrees.

"They put them back in the freezer, back in the death house. That’s what they did. I’m sorry,” said Bivins.

Bivins said he's raising questions after city leaders say the pair sought help to fix their furnace a week before they died.

They came to the Ferry Street Resource Center in Niles, but the nonprofit doesn't provide money for household repairs.

According to our news-gathering partners at the South Bend Tribune, the center referred the Bivins to a different program run by a Michigan State agency. One that experts told the Tribune required them to do paperwork and get multiple bids for repairs and that would have taken awhile to provide any relief.

VandenHeede says a community development block grant to the city for $400,000 was reduced by half in recent years, saying that was the money the city used to fund home owner programs

“These agencies could have went out and did better. They could have done better,” said Bivins.

Neighbors who didn't know the Bivins by name say they would've been willing to help, had they known the need.

"I think that there's a big group of people that empathy for their fellow man, and I think that if they had known what was happening with that family they would've helped,” said Jean Rose, who lives in Buchanan.

For now, the son and brother of Albert and Patricia Bivins is asking for action.

"Someone needs to be held accountable or they need to make this program work better," said Bivins.

WSBT 22 tried to reached out to the Ferry Street Resource Center, but they couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.

Click here to held the Bivins family raise money for funeral costs.

If you need assistance heating your home, these resources can help:

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