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Landscape comes to life at homeless shelter 

homeless shelter

More than 40 volunteers plant 200 trees and shrubs at homeless shelter

After two years of design and coordination, landscaping at North County’s homeless shelter took root on Saturday in Atascadero. Armed with shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows, more than 40 volunteers from Madrone Landscapes and Cal Poly planted 200+ trees, shrubs, and ground covers at ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization.

ECHO is a 50-bed homeless shelter serving north San Luis Obispo County. “We have accomplished some major renovations at the shelter over the last few years and this landscaping is a part of that effort,” said Jim Patterson, ECHO board president. “We especially appreciate Rick Mathews at Madrone Landscapes and Cal Poly Professor Christy O’Hara for helping make this happen.”

A few years ago, Professor O’Hara was looking for a community project for her Cal Poly landscape architecture students and ECHO was a good fit. “The students spent many hours studying the micro-climate surrounding the shelter to make smart planting choices that included many native varieties,” said O’Hara. “The students also felt strongly about creating an area with lots of shade trees that would be a quiet and peaceful place for people who come to ECHO.” The landscape design also incorporated a fruit orchard and vegetable garden. “With this much land in the plan, and it’s a homeless shelter that also provides food, it just made sense to include a fruit orchard and gardening beds,” O’Hara explained.

After the ECHO board of directors approved the Cal Poly design plan, Madrone Landscapes offered to help with the project. “A design plan this large has an extensive irrigation system,” said Jim Patterson. “Madrone employees donated their time to dig all the trenches and install the system. Much of the irrigation material was donated or discounted by Farm Supply Company. It was a big job and we’re very thankful.” Madrone Landscapes, Bay Laurel Nursery, West Covina Wholesale Nursery, Native Sons Wholesale Nursery and Growing Grounds Farm donated more than half of the 200 plants needed to implement the plan. Rossi Transport donated the planting mix.

Founded in 2001, ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization, is a grassroots, volunteer-based nonprofit that provides meals, shelter, and onsite case management for the homeless in North County. ECHO is a 50-bed transitional shelter helping individuals and families with children find permanent housing within three months of entering. ECHO serves all communities in north San Luis Obispo County. To donate or learn more about ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization, go to or call (805) 462-3663.

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