Crossline is an Exeter soup kitchen that provides a lifeline to people almost every day of the week. Al Gibson visited the premises and chatted to some of the amazing volunteers, unsung heroes who don’t seek any recognition for their years of community service and ongoing kindness.
The Crossline building in Heavitree Road has become more visible lately, with the scaffolding up for the new Charlie Mackesy mural that is being created on its gable wall. What passersby may not know is that the building hosts Crossline, the Exeter Soup Kitchen from its basement. For specific people in need in our community, this is a much-needed service that serves hot meals on four evenings and a Saturday morning breakfast.
Listed by Exeter Community Initiatives as a place where homeless people can go to receive free food, this Exeter soup kitchen is hosted by different volunteers each day. They also collect and give away essential items like clothes, underwear, shoes, toiletries, blankets, sleeping bags, rucksacks etc when available.
I was pleased to chat to Rosemary who has been volunteering for about 18 months and hear her insights. “At Crossline, we think people are people whether they are homeless or not,” she said. “They deserve respect and the best we can offer. Because, if you think about it, we all may be two or three rent payments away from being homeless. So it’s important to treat others well and there’s no reason for anyone to go hungry in Exeter because they can’t afford it or they are homeless.”
Meals are prepared in the basement kitchen and tables are put up outside, sometimes under a gazebo when it’s wet to accommodate about 25 people each evening. Mike, a long-term volunteer says: “Our volunteers love to sit and have a chat with visitors to the soup kitchen about all sorts of things. There are some lovely people, very interesting people.”
40 years of Crossline
It was also good to chat to Tim Hurrell who leads the Tuesday evening group of volunteers and has been involved in the Exeter soup kitchen for 20 years, this October 2023. “It’s more than just food,” he says, “It’s like a family for people without families.”
Having been at Crossline for two decades, Tim was able to share some of the history of the building. It has been owned by the Crossline Trust since 1983, so that’s 40 years of serving the local community.
It was called ‘Crossline’ because it housed a crisis helpline for anyone going through a tough time. Today, those who are feeling suicidal can call Samaritans, however if you know anyone who is homeless or hungry in Exeter there will always be a meal for them at Crossline.
Tim was also able to explain how different volunteer groups take responsibility for the soup kitchen at different times. “On a Monday Night, it’s hosted by the Vineyard church with a team on a rota; on Tuesdays it is run by a team of Christians and non-Christians locally. Wednesday is a day off. Then on Thursdays and Fridays the soup kitchen is run by Bread of Life Charity. Students from Exeter University Just Love prepare breakfast on Saturday mornings during term time.”
“It’s more than just food. It’s like a family for people without families.”Tim Hurrell
Celebrating 40 years this year, Crossline is a city centre community outreach that deserves our support. Talking to the volunteers they are all committed to provide the very best they can for those in need.
This Exeter soup kitchen has a 5-Star food hygiene rating having passed environmental health inspections. The team are aware they need to know what is in each dish to protect people with allergies and only use quality ingredients. “So we don’t give any food away that we wouldn’t eat ourselves,” says Tim.
“Tonight we’re serving our Mediterranean chicken and vegetable ratatouille,” Rosemary chirps!
“Last night we put four tables in a row with chairs either side and it was a really nice vibe,” Tim continues. “We make a point of interacting together and remembering people’s names. And, of course, we use proper plates, cutlery and mugs, not paper plates and cups. We want to do things nicely.”
Mike says, “Soup kitchen is probably the wrong word to describe us! Because it’s not like you get your soup and off you go. We invite people to sit down and enjoy their meal and we enjoy getting to know them.”
“I wouldn’t call it a soup kitchen,” says Tim. “I would call it a mission to rough sleepers or something like that. Most of our visitors are rough sleepers who are in and out of hostels or who have been on the streets. This is why we are always happy to receive donations of blankets, sleeping bags and rucksacks.”
Whatever you call it, Crossline is fulfilling a desperate need in our city centre. Please consider supporting this Exeter soup kitchen project today.
Support our Exeter soup kitchen
Each volunteer group at Crossline has its own budget. The Exeter Kindness Mural is supporting the soup kitchen as part of our project to celebrate kindness in our city. Click the donate button above or email email@example.com to arrange collection of items you wish to donate that will assist homeless people in our city.
Shaun, volunteering on a Tuesday evening at Crossline, the Exeter soup kitchen that is making such a difference in the lives of local people.