Meet Dexter the Therapaws dog

    In this blog, we introduce you to Dexter, one of St Mungo’s participating TheraPaws dogs.

    What’s a TheraPaws dog you ask?

    Well, being a TheraPaws dog involves taking regular visits to vulnerable members of the community (those living in mental health centres, hospitals, hospices, care homes etc.) who love seeing and engaging with canine friends.

    Therapy dogs are an invaluable asset to homelessness charities such as St Mungo’s as they give the opportunity to reach out and offer a calming and non-judgemental presence to some of society’s most hard-hit individuals. That’s why we are one of the few charities that accommodate people who are homeless with their dogs or other pets wherever possible.

    Dexter is a playful and friendly four-year-old Labradoodle based in West London. As a therapy dog he likes to spend his time supervising staff and trying to encourage complete (but often willing) strangers to play with him and his ball or frisbee!

    Dexter became a TheraPaws dog when one of his staff spotted that a charity was looking for volunteers for their TheraPaws programme and applied accordingly. After passing some background checks and an assessment to determine his suitability, Dexter took part in an induction programme to embark on his new calling as a therapy dog. From there, he was matched on various projects that suit both dog and volunteer teams with appropriate clients.

    Dexter got involved with St Mungo’s when Niamh Carwood, the TheraPaws co-ordinator at Mayhew, got in touch with us here at St Mungo’s to match Dexter as a therapy dog with one of our clients. The client in question has had some social isolation issues and we thought that Dexter’s irresistibly sunny, sociable nature could help bring this client outside on a more regular basis.

    Thankfully, our notion that the client and Dexter would get along was well judged – the client has never missed one of their weekly appointments! St Mungo’s staff, the client as well as Dexter very much look forward to these visits, where all parties got to enjoy some time outside, with Dexter showing how a frisbee should best be chased. The visits also give St Mungo’s staff another (neutral) talking point on which to focus with the client, as well as giving Dexter another pal to pull into his games.

    Want to get involved in the fight against homelessness with your dog? Why not sign up for our #MungosTakeTheLead challenge this August. Register yourself and your dog, find some sponsors and pledge to walk 26.2 miles throughout the 31 days of August.

    Together with all of our participants, we’re hoping to raise £12,000 and walk a collective total of 4,266 miles – one mile for every person found rough sleeping on a single night in England last year.

    Interested? Read more about the dog walking challenge here. 

    St Mungo’s Recovery Approach: a review of the evidence

    We see people make remarkable changes in their lives, and often they say this was possible through the support they received. The St Mungo’s Recovery Approach summarises how St Mungo’s services support the journey to recovery and how we help people to re-build their lives.

    The Recovery Approach sets out what St Mungo’s sees as the best ways to work with clients to support their recovery through four ‘building blocks’:

    • Building initial relationships and trust
    • Securing resources and opportunities
    • Developing client skills
    • Providing support that enables and empowers.


    When we do all of these well, someone we help is more likely to develop the confidence, skills and resilience to re-build their lives.

    As well as the lived experience of clients and the expertise of our staff, the Recovery Approach drew on good practice from across the homelessness sector and other fields including mental health and substance misuse. We incorporated evidence-based approaches that underpin, for example, Psychologically Informed Environments, person-centred approaches and trauma-informed services.

    But with our commitment to being an evidence-based organisation, we wanted to go further. So earlier this year our Research team commissioned Revolving Doors Agency to undertake a critical and independent Rapid Evidence Review of the St Mungo’s Recovery Approach.

    The review considered a wide range of research and confirmed that there is a positive evidence base to support the components of our approach and showed that we are drawing on well researched good practice. It also makes recommendations for further research where more evidence would help.

    Read the full review here.

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