Volunteers Build Step Up West Los Angeles VA Garden

July 9, 2019

The Step Up VASH Program

Step Up’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program currently serves over 200 Veterans. The VASH team helps Los Angeles area Veterans move from the streets, shelters, and transitional housing into permanent supportive housing. They provide Veterans with street outreach, engagement, help with benefits enrollment, and making appointments with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). Through this process, a trusted partnership develops.

Once housed, the Step Up VASH team then continues to provide supportive mental and physical health services and Life Skills programs for Veterans in each of its Step Up communities in Santa Monica, Hollywood and from an office on-site at Building 209 on the West LA VA campus. Buildings 205 and 208 on the campus quad are in the process of being rehabilitated and will become home to up to 185 more veterans within the next two years. Veterans from these two buildings will also have access to this garden.

About the Garden Project

Building 209 is currently home to fifty-four Veterans over the age of fifty-five and has a beautiful outdoor area where Step Up would like to create and maintain a vegetable garden as part of its life skills programs for the residents and other participating Veterans. Volunteers, including Home Depot, participated in gardening maintenance, preparation and planting along with members of Step Up who are residents of Building 209 on the West LA VA campus. Two days of service were needed: one for garden preparation, and one for garden installation.

Volunteers helped Step Up members improve vital life skills and vocational skills by working to establish the edible and ornamental garden. Volunteers contributed to the process of creating a usable garden space for current and future Building 209 residents. The foods grown may also be used as part of a cooking program for Vets in the building.

Calsense Field Service Representative Joe Perez donated his time and 33 years of irrigation knowledge to support this garden project within his local community. There are an estimated 55,000 homeless in the City where Joe works and lives, so he wanted to jump on the opportunity to help Veterans help themselves.

Calsense Install Irrigation for the Garden

Joe Perez assisted the Step Up’s VASH program in getting the irrigation system to a functional state, and initiating irrigation programming for a fruit and vegetable garden at Building 209.

The West LA VA campus is connected to a legacy stand-alone Calsense ET2000e-16-RRe-SSE-R, which had a non-functional flow sensor and no remote, and it is the only Calsense controller on the campus. Joe helped the VASH program:

  • Investigate why the flow sensor was not working.
  • Test all stations connected to the controller and identify any areas in need of repair.
  • Add Station Descriptions to the Program.
  • Separate stations into separate programs based on station/zone conditions (plant type, head type, exposure, soil type, % of slope).
  • Provide Calsense ongoing training and support to those who will be in operation of the controller.

Irrigation Challenges

One of the garden sprinkler zones was too large to accommodate low flow in one area for drip irrigation, while having regular sprinklers in the other area with regular flow. There were a few options available to resolve this problem:

  • Plant in the ground and avoid raised beds, using existing sprinklers
  • Raise the sprinkler heads to accommodate raised beds
  • Divide that zone into two

The biggest challenge for Building 209 Garden was how to utilize the parts of the existing station #4 irrigation system that ran beneath the proposed vegetable garden, while at the same time, separate that segment of irrigation from the rest of station #4 that waters established drought tolerant plants and citrus trees that have different watering requirements than the vegetable garden.


  • The flow sensor was replaced as a donation from Great Plains Industries for the project
  • Joe added station descriptions, set expected station gpms, limits and alerts to the irrigation program.
  • Separated stations into three programs based on station/zone conditions (plant type, head type, exposure, soil type, % of slope).
  • Relationships were fostered to continue to provide Calsense training and support to all those who will be operating the controller.
  • Joe configured an arrangement that gives the vegetable garden a separate water source and independent watering schedule from the drought tolerant plants and citrus trees

 For me it is about proving to our veterans that the vast majority of Americans appreciate not only their willingness to put their lives on the line to protect what most take for granted, but that there are those who will match words with deeds. These men and women who came back from their service scared deserve to be treated as the heroes they are, and receive the help to be made whole to the full extent possible. That starts with giving them the respect they deserve honored as a valued part of our communities across all income levels.” – Joe Perez

Don’t forget to view our News & Insights for product Tech Tips and Calsense news, plus our Featured Projects to see real customer results. To learn more about Step Up’s Veteran’s Affairs Supportive Housing program, click here.

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