Yango Brooks was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lived with his grandparents while he was growing up. Yango’s substance use began at the age of 14, which continued into adulthood. Later in life, he experienced chronic homelessness while living in St. Louis. In 2008, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri.
His sobriety journey began at Benilde Hall after he was arrested around 2012. Due to his arrest, he served 9-10 months in the Jackson County jail and spent about a month at the Monty House, an in-patient treatment program. He was sentenced to Drug Court, where they sent Yango to Benilde Hall. He stayed at Benilde Hall for a year. However, after Yango left Benilde Hall, he fell back into a recurrence of substance use. “I stopped coming to meetings. I stopped talking to people that were like-minded people such as myself.” Yango had a spiritual awakening and realized he needed to change his life. “It came down to either do you want to live, or do you want to die?” He decided to come back to Benilde Hall in 2016 to seek help.
While Yango was at Benilde Hall, he did a lot of volunteer work around campus. “I used to strip the hallway floors and the kitchen's. I put up desktops. I did a lot of things around here just to stay busy.” Yango found that his calling was to motivate and inspire others. “My main goal and my main focus today in my recovery is as long as I can help another alcoholic or another addict, that’s it. It’s all I can do. I’m just here to take it one day at a time.”
Around 2017, Yango and Darryel decided to form a recovery group at Benilde Hall called 12 Gates. The origin behind the name is because of the 12 traditions and 12 steps of AA and NA programs. For the first two years of running the 12 Gates group, they were hosting meetings three days a week at Benilde Hall. Unfortunately, Darryel passed away in 2019. Yango continued to run the 12 Gates meetings alone, but because of his work schedule, the meetings were cut down to two days a week. When COVID-19 happened, 12 Gates meetings were paused temporarily, but are now back in session at Benilde Hall.
Yango says that former Executive Director, Kent Jewell, "helped me out tremendously." Yango's faith in God has also helped him out along the way. “God has done things for me that I never imagined I could do for myself.” He advises those struggling with substance use disorder to keep going. “It’s a pace; it’s not a race. And last but not least, don’t give up until the miracle happens.” Aside from running 12 Gates meetings, Yango also works as a merchandiser for Heartland Coca Cola. He lives with his wife and their daughter. Yango has been sober since February 3rd, 2016.