No one WANTS to be in a shelter

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If you read this space regularly, you know that I can’t stand when taxpayer money is wasted, especially by politicians. And I always appreciate public servants who keep a close watch on ridiculous spending.

But like most Americans, I also believe in a social safety net — for children, the poor, and the elderly.

And so, this brings me to an important ruling by a judge this week.

I doubt many New Yorkers have had to use homeless shelters. I have visited a few to cover various stories. Trust me, you don’t want to spend time there, much less a night sleeping there.

But the Bloomberg administration thinks some people would — to save a buck or two.

A judge has ruled that the Bloomberg administration violated city rules when it attempted to implement a new policy about the homeless.

It would force individuals who showed up at shelters to prove that they had reached their last resort, that they had no family to take them in, or nowhere else to go.

The shelters I’ve seen are sometimes bleak, frightening places. I have to believe that just by showing up at a shelter, you have reached the end of the line. Would you actually go to a homeless shelter just to get away from that annoying family member? Who would do that?

But the mayor says it’s not that simple.

“The law requires that we provide shelter,” he said. “But you could not say, ‘I’m tired of paying my rent. Therefore the taxpayers of New York City should pay my rent.’ OK? That’s not reasonable. Let the judges explain to the public when they think that you should have the right to walk in and say, ‘Whether I need the services or not, you give it to me.’ I don’t think that’s what’s this country is all about and never will be.”

The mayor is proud that he has his eye on the bottom line. But is the homeless shelter the place to be drawing the line?

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn says the policy is “cruel and mean-spirited… This is a wrong-headed policy that puts a burden of proof on people who could least shoulder it.”

Here’s the kicker: The judge’s ruling was not about the policy, but about how the city implemented it without City Council approval or public input. The city is appealing. So this fight is not over. Stay tuned.