A WOMEN'S centre threatened with closure because of a lack of funding has been thrown a lifeline by a businessman.

Brighton Women's Centre, which last October was facing a shortfall of £30,000, is moving to the former Conservative Club in High Street, Kemp Town, from May after former Sussex Stationers owner Michael Chowen offered to help.

Last year volunteers feared the centre, which has saved thousands of women from destitution and even death, would close within months.

Manager Karen Moore, the only paid member of staff, had to leave in January as funds dwindled.

After hearing of the charity's plight Mr Chowen offered to refurbish the club and rent it at a reduced rate.

It left its base at the Brighthelm Centre in March when its lease ended and will officially reopen on May 21.

Treasurer Shirley West, 56, who has been involved with the charity since she moved to Brighton 16 years ago, said: "It is amazing news and everybody is feeling very positive. We have had lots of letters of support and various donations.

"The publicity has brought the profile of the centre up and we will be much more visible in our new location which should help us apply for more grants. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us."

The charity, which provides counselling, drop-in sessions, training, complementary therapies and a creche to victims of domestic violence, homeless women and those with mental health problems, hopes to offer creative writing and photography workshops in its new home.

Ms West, of Winchester Street, Brighton, said: "Mr Chowen has been totally refurbishing everything. It means we can use the building at weekends, which we weren't able to do before, and run more groups."

The centre, funded by Brighton and Hove City Council until six years ago, joins a growing number of voluntary services which are finding it increasingly difficult to attract funding as priorities of financial backers change. Last year The Argus reported the St Patrick's Trust, which has helped 300,000 homeless people off the streets, was facing the axe. It was given £50,000 by the city council to modernise its facilities.

In recent months the women's centre has been awarded £5,000 lottery money for a specific project and a £10,000 grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation, which will help meet its £5,000 monthly running costs. The city council funds a tent at Pride Festival and entertainment venues Komedia and the Joogleberry Playhouse have also held fund raising events. The Co-op donated £500 to advertise the move to Kemp Town.

But the long-term future of the charity is still uncertain.

Ms West added: "I do worry about it. If the voluntary sector in Brighton withdrew all its services for a week it would be dire. We are not recognised economically but it is actually cheaper to have us."