The Emergency Food and Shelter Program was established on March 24, 1983, with the signing of the "Jobs Stimulus Bill," Public Law 98-8. That legislation created a National Board, chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that consisted of representatives of the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army and United Way Worldwide.
The EFSP was authorized under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77 signed into law on July 24, 1987, since renamed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and subsequently reauthorized under P.L. 100-628, signed into law on November 7, 1988). Since 1983, in its 36-year history, the EFSP will have distributed $4.5 billion to over 14,000 human service agencies in more than 2,500 communities across the country through this collaborative effort between the private and public sectors.
The original authorizing legislation (PL 100-77) specifically calls for "sensitivity to the transition from temporary shelter to permanent homes and attention to the specialized needs of homeless individuals with mental and physical disabilities and illness and to facilitate access for homeless individuals to other sources of services and benefits."
Also in accordance with the legislation, the National Board encourages Local Boards, the decision-making local bodies, to place special emphasis on identification of and assistance to the elderly, families with children, Native Americans and Veterans. In addition, the authorization as revised (PL 102-550) in 1992 requires that a homeless or formerly homeless person serve on the Local Boards.