"It was a slow process to hell for a time."

That's how Phil, a reformed addict who spent 5 months in a homeless shelter, described his former life. His addiction to alcohol and drugs eventually landed him in jail for two and a half years. After getting out, he had nowhere to go - especially if he wanted to stay clean.

"I can't be around old friends because they still drink and do drugs," Phil says. "Why did I waste all that time?"

After 5 months of following the rules at the shelter - "It is what you make it: rough or grin and bear it" - Phil finally found an apartment. He lives on a $115 a month check from welfare while he waits for his Social Security income.

"Now I'm able to take a shower whenever I want to," he remarks. "And it's good to have quiet. I only wish I could have a cat."

For Phil - as for most people - the path to homelessness is never straight or simple. It might be made up of a string of questionable decisions - like choosing the wrong friends, or figuring that one more drink won't hurt anything. It might include losing a job, facing a medical crisis, or fighting a war. Or it could start with growing up in a dysfunctional home, where physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is a way of life.

What if you worked a full-time, minimum-wage job but still couldn't afford to provide housing for your family? How would you cope with childhood trauma if all you've been taught is to use alcohol and drugs to try and forget?

What if you didn't grow up inside a home that had a white picket fence?

White Picket Fence Full-Length Documentary:

White Picket Fence Trailer/Overview Video:

Disclaimer: Some names and identities have been altered or disguised in order to protect those who allowed the use of their stories and images. All necessary permissions were obtained at time of filming.

For more information, email mgrace@wocumc.org.