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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. A drone image shows a partially drained wastewater reservoir at Piney Point, with Tampa Bay visible in the distance.
  2. This aerial photo taken from an airplane shows a reservoir near the old Piney Point phosphate mine, Saturday, April 3, 2021 in Bradenton, Fla. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday after a significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters. The pond where the leak was discovered is at the old Piney Point phosphate mine, sitting in a stack of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer that is radioactive. (Tiffany Tompkins/The Bradenton Herald via AP)
  3. Feeding Tampa Bay volunteers (Left to right) Jessica Mallory, 17, Marianny Moreta, 17, and Ivanna Ferreras, 18, help load cars with food on the University of South Florida Tampa campus Monday. 
One year into the pandemic , the nonprofit is still stretched trying to meet the need of hungry Tampa Bay families. It recently held its 300th mega pantry, where lines for boxes of groceries still stretch around the block.
  4. More than 300 families were relocated from Tampa Park Apartments ahead of its sale to Ybor City developer Darryl Shaw, who put up more than $800,000 to help residents pay moving costs and expenses. The housing complex was one of the last places close to downtown Tampa with rents low enough for low-income families, seniors and people on disability benefits.
  5. The bungalows of Jordan Park ,the remaining original section of St. Petersburg's first Black housing complex, will be demolished by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority as part of a $72 million redevelopment . Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday approved moving ahead with a $38.8 million bond issue to help finance the project.
  6. Just yards from The Tempo at Encore apartment building, Zach Oak, 30, harvests carrots at Meacham Urban Farm. The farm opens to the public on Feb. 13.
  7. Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell listens to Gov. Ron DeSantis during a roundtable discussion regarding mental health at the downtown Tampa Firefighter Museum in December. DeSantis announced Friday that Poppell has resigned. He will be replaced by Shevaun Harris, who had served as acting secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration since October.
  8. Florida's Guardian ad Litem Program served fewer foster children over the past five years despite an increase in funding and employees, according to a state report.
  9. Florida's Guardian ad Litem program served fewer foster children over the past five years despite an increase in funding and employees.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Republican Vern Buchanan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.