Christopher O'Donnell - Vulnerable Communities Reporter

Vulnerable Communities Reporter

I’m a political junkie and I love literature so this job fits like a glove. But journalism wasn’t my first career. I was born and grew up in England and programmed computers for a living. I switched to reporting when I moved to Florida in 2001. I got my first break at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune after earning a journalism degree from the University of South Florida. I joined the Tampa Bay Times in 2016 after a three-year stint at the Tampa Tribune, where I covered city halls on both sides of Tampa Bay. When I’m not shouting at cable news, I love watching real football from England (alright, soccer) and riding my road bike on trails.

  1. Florida's Guardian ad Litem program served fewer foster children over the past five years despite an increase in funding and employees.
  2. A group of homeless people try to stay warm outside the Boys and Girls Club of Tarpon Springs' cold night shelter in January 2020.  Tampa Bay communities will be conducting annual homeless counts in January and February, but will not rely on volunteers this year because of the pandemic.
  3. Grace House provides emergency housing and services to help families and people at risk of homelessness. But the Juvenile Welfare Board recently terminated a contract that provided almost $400,000 a year to Hope Villages of America, the Clearwater nonprofit that runs it.
  4. Holly Butler, 48, director of property management for Contemporary Housing Alternatives of Florida, Inc, had an idea. What if COVID-affected tenants could get credit for delinquent rent by putting in community service hours? "I wondered, 'How can we make lemonade out of all these lemons?' I thought it might just be a kookie idea, but I pitched it," Butler explained. Now their new "Back on Track" program allows COVID-affected tenants to deduct $100 from their delinquent rent debt for every hour they volunteer for a recognized nonprofit charity. Butler poses at Northside Villas on Dec. 14.
  5. Tina Scarborough, a RN with AdventHealth, prepares to administer the COVID-19 vaccine at the AdventHealth Tampa distribution tent Wednesday. Roughly one third of about 13,000 employees in the firm's West Florida Division have been invited to get the vaccine. But almost half of employees said in a survey they have concerns about receiving a new virus.
  6. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that residents and caregivers at Pinellas County nursing homes will be among the first in Florida to receive the coronavirus vaccine. DeSantis made the announcement Friday during a roundtable event on mental health at the Tampa Firefighter's Museum. Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis, right, was also in attendance.
  7. Dec. 11, 2020• The Buzz on Florida Politics
    Gov. Ron DeSantis introduces First Lady Casey DeSantis during a roundtable discussion regarding mental health at the downtown Tampa Firefighter Museum on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. Gov. DeSantis announced plans to allocate funds from the CARES Act to state mental health services.
  8. Malcolm Wright, 54, was recently evicted from this apartment in Clearwater. He is one of the many renters who thought they were protected by the Centers for Disease Control's federal eviction moratorium.
  9. One of the solar-powered surveillance cameras that have been installed around the 35-acre Robles Park Village in Tampa. The Tampa Housing Authority hopes the devices will reduce crime and provide evidence to police. The images are monitored by a private company, which will call police if they spot criminal activity.
  10. The Lakewood Estates Civic Association is calling on the Florida Department of Children and Families to relocate a foster group home for troubled teens after two boys used golf clubs to kill a limpkin.
  11. Republican Vern Buchanan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006.
  12. David Wilson, 71, grabs some of his belongings after discovering a board had been nailed over his apartment lock at Tampa Park Apartments. He had planned to move out that evening. The complex has been sold for redevelopment.
  13. Ruperto Soto has lived at Tampa Park Apartments for years, slowly transforming the area around his unit into a lush oasis of plants that he alone tends. But with the sale of the apartment complex, he and other residents were given until Sunday to move out. It will mean saying goodbye to some plants that can't be moved. He plans to buy a house with a backyard so he can grow a bigger, better version.
  14. Robles Park resident Edwin Rosa, pictured with his Chihuahua Tiny, said he has no plans to vote this year. He said politicians do nothing for the people in his neighborhood.
  15. Right: Tim Marks, CEO and president of the Metropolitan Ministries and left, Thaddeus Bullard, aka WWE wrestler Titus O'Neill, talk about the holiday food and toy needs for families in the Tampa Bay region. This is the 25th year for the holiday tent. The nonprofit estimates the pandemic will swell the number of families in need to 40,000. Its 36,500-square-foot tent is at 2609 North Rome Avenue, Tampa.
  16. Oct. 23, 2020• The Buzz on Florida Politics
    Democratic challenger Margaret Good, left, and Florida 16th Congressional District incumbent Vern Buchanan.
  17. Shenika Zunich works to keep her son, Jermaine Golden, 10, and daughter, Lylah Golden, 13, on task at their reading lessons. They are taking classes on school-issued laptops from the hotel room in Brandon where they have lived since August.
  18. Democratic challenger Margaret Good, left, is challenging U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in the race for the 16th Congressional District seat in November.
  19. The Arc of Tampa Bay, headquartered in Clearwater, fired five employees after allegations that a disabled child was mistreated in one of its group homes. The nonprofit is being sued by the child's parents.
  20. Democratic challenger Margaret Good, left, and Florida 16th Congressional District incumbent Vern Buchanan.
  21. Urlay Williams, 69, pictured in her bedroom. Williams is among more than 100 Tampa Park Apartments residents who must move out by Nov. 1 after the complex was sold for redevelopment. But she earns just $9,000 per year and is struggling to find somewhere else to live. She is leaning on her faith and trying to remain positive.
  22. Ira Jean Snell (left) and her daughter, argue with property manager Yolanda Amos (right) and Richard Clebert, representing Tampa Park Apartments, who had come to change the locks on several units where residents had stopped paying rent or whose leases had expired, at Tampa Park Apartments on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020 in Tampa.
  23. The Renaissance at West River, at 1545 W. Main St, was formally opened Thursday. It is the first apartment complex to be completed in the West River urban renewal project. The six-story, 160-unit complex is a part of Tampa's commitment to provide 10,000 affordable housing units by 2027.